Republicans falsely claim that killer of Oakland police officer was involved in racial justice protests

Louise Hall
·3-min read
Getty Images
Getty Images

Trump administration officials and Republicans in Congress are continuing to suggest that the man accused of murdering a federal protective services officer was linked to racial justice protests.

Steven Carrillo, an active-duty staff sergeant in the US Air Force, opened fire on a guard shack outside of a federal building in Oakland on 29 May, according to charging documents.

He later allegedly killed David Patrick Underwood, a federal protective services officer, during a drive-by shooting that same night.

The killing of Mr Underwood took place the same night as demonstrators were gathering throughout the city to mourn the death of George Floyd but an FBI affidavit last month said Mr Carrillo was not associated with the demonstrators.

“There is no evidence that these men had any intention to join the demonstration in Oakland as some as the media have asked. They came to Oakland to kill cops,” said John Bennet, the agent in charge of the FBI’s San Francisco division, according to CBS News.

A number of Trump administration officials and Republicans have continued to suggest that Mr Carrillo was affiliated with the nationwide George Floyd protests, Talking Point Memo first reported.

At a hearing on Thursday, Senator Ron Johnson linked Mr Carrillo to the protests, which he described as “chaotic and violent”, according to the website.

“News reports said the protest involving approximately 8,000 people turned chaotic and violent, as demonstrators smashed windows, looted stores, and broke into a bank a few blocks from where Officer Underwood was on duty,” the senator was quoted as saying.

He reportedly said the suspect's “anti-police views drew him to Oakland, where he saw the anti-police protest as an opportunity for more bloodshed”.

A spokesman for Mr Johnson denied that the senator was suggesting Mr Carillo was among the protesters and insisted he was only suggesting that he was using the demonstrations as an opportunity to kill a police officer.

TPM reported that a security camera still taken seconds before the alleged murder, and cited in the federal criminal complaint against Mr Carrillo, shows the attack actually took place on a near-empty street.

Senator Ted Cruz also seemingly recently implied that Mr Underwood’s death was connected to the protests at a hearing on Wednesday regarding “The Right of the People Peaceably to Assemble: Protecting Speech by Stopping Anarchist Violence”.

He provided a montaged news clip describing the killing next to other clips of protest coverage, implying a connection.

Acting Deputy DHS secretary Ken Cuccinelli wrote in June that while the nation was “appalled” by George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, “The mayhem that ensued, however, cannot be excused or justified, particularly when it causes the death of another.”

“How do we prevent the death of another Patrick Underwood? We don’t allow lawlessness in our streets,” he wrote in an opinion piece for Fox News.

Officials have in fact said Mr Carrillo was a suspected member of the Boogaloo movement, a loosely-connected group of extremist right-wing activists calling for another American civil war through violent actions.

Mr Carillo has now been charged with murder and attempted murder, which could carry a death sentence.

Robert Alvin Justus Jr, who allegedly drove Mr Carrillo in the van used for the drive-by shooting, has been charged with aiding and abetting murder and attempted murder.

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