For this Daily Critical Issues Report, PERF spoke with two law enforcement executives and a researcher about the anti-government “boogaloo movement.”

  • Anti-Defamation League Investigative Researcher Alex Friedfeld provided an overview of the movement and the threat that its followers pose to law enforcement officers.
  • Santa Cruz County, CA Sheriff Jim Hart shared information about a boogaloo movement adherent who allegedly killed David Patrick Underwood, a contractor with the Federal Protective Service, and Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller of the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office, and shot other officers.
  • Assistant Sheriff Chris Darcy of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department discussed three members of the boogaloo movement who were arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism.


Alex Friedfeld, Investigative Researcher, Anti-Defamation League:

Boogalooers Are Firearms Extremists Who Advocate “A Coming Civil War”

The boogaloo movement references the term “boogaloo,” which started off as a slang joke in the 1984 movie “Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo.” Over time, it became linked to the idea of a future civil war, especially on websites by extreme pro-gun factions. For a while, this notion of linking “the boogaloo” with a civil war was limited to these pro-gun groups, but then it started to navigate onto more mainstream social media platforms like Reddit, Instagram, Twitter, and, most prominently, Facebook. By the time it got there, “boogaloo” was shorthand for “the coming civil war.”

There are two broad camps in the boogaloo. First, you have white supremacists who believe a civil war is going to happen along racial lines. They want to use this conflict as a way to destroy society and build a white ethno-state.

There’s also a more common version of the boogaloo: the anti-government extremist version. This one draws from various anti-government movements, like militias, gun activists, and anarcho-capitalists. According to this version of the boogaloo, it’s the moment when the American people rise up against a tyrannical government that has been working for years to strip away their freedom. So they’re rising up to reclaim their freedoms, even if this means using violence and sparking a civil war.

So a big part of the boogaloo is an anti-tyrannical government movement, and a part of it that is very anti-law enforcement. They believe that law enforcement is the arm of the government that is enforcing tyrannical acts. They are very pro-gun, and very against any limitation on their rights to owning firearms. We see a lot of people reacting to the police use of things like “red flag laws.” We see a reaction against no-knock raids and police brutality.

We see this strong anti-law enforcement sentiment play out with their messaging online, where you regularly see memes being shared that advocate violence against cops. They can get pretty graphic.

In recent months there have been calls for retaliation in the wake of the death of Duncan Lemp during a no-knock raid in March. Someone shared the personal information of the law enforcement officer who they believed was responsible for the shooting, even though that officer had nothing to do with it. And that’s a really serious concern, when people start doxing police officers.

Even though a lot of these memes are steeped in jokes, we have seen people act on them and try to attack police officers. Back in April there was an incident when a man livestreamed himself on Facebook, saying he was looking for a police officer to ambush and execute. While the livestream was going, most comments were saying, “Don’t do this, because you’re going to give a bad name to the movement.” But there were people encouraging him to do it.

Thankfully, he was arrested, but that hasn’t stopped other people from doing it. Three individuals were arrested outside a Black Lives Matter protest in Las Vegas in late May while making Molotov cocktails that they were allegedly planning to use against police officers. And there’s the case of Stephen Carrillo, who was charged with murdering a law enforcement officer in Oakland and killing another officer when police came to his house to apprehend him a few days later.

There’s this permissive environment online, where it’s okay to share these anti-law enforcement sentiments. But even when it’s steeped in jokes and meme culture, people are picking up on these violent underpinnings and acting on them.

Question: How has the boogaloo movement interacted with the George Floyd protests?

Alex Friedfeld: Boogaloo supporters have been joining these protests. They see common cause with the Black Lives Matter protesters’ frustration and anger with modern policing. I think it was the second day of protests in Minneapolis when we saw a boogaloo supporter show up holding the boogaloo flag proudly. Since then we’ve seen them show up for these protests in a variety of ways. Sometimes they show up, stand on their own, and show support with signs. At this point we haven’t seen any kind of formal alliance between Black Lives Matter protesters and boogalooers. Sometimes they’ll be accepted into the ranks of the protesters, and sometimes they aren’t.

By and large, the boogalooers who have shown up to these protests have been nonviolent. But there have been notable exceptions.


Santa Cruz County, CA Sheriff Jim Hart:

Steven Carillo’s Boogaloo Group Was Highly Structured

Santa Cruz is a small county on the central coast of California, about 20 miles south of San Jose. We have some urban zones, but we do a lot of rural policing out here, and this incident occurred in a very rural area.

When this case happened and we started looking at the boogaloos, it looked like a pretty fragmented group. There was no hierarchy or organization on a state or national level. But Steven Carrillo’s group, which called themselves the “grizzly scouts” and identified as boogaloo, had a very structured organization with about 27 people. They had commanders, sergeant majors, and line staff, and they ranked each person based on their skill-set – whether they have military training, advanced military training, EMT training, and SWAT training. People are rated based on their level of experience.

They also train as a group frequently, including firearms, tactics, and survival training. They have “go bags,” and are required to carry at least two rifles and a pistol, as well as plate carriers, vests, holsters, ammunition, and some survival gear.

Carrillo allegedly shot and killed a federal officer in Oakland, which is about 70 miles north of us. They called for mutual aid, so we had staff in that area when the shooting occurred, and were very aware of it. Several days later, our deputies were called to a rural area. Someone who worked for a cable TV company saw a van on a property, looked in the van, and saw what he thought was bomb-making equipment and firearms parts.

We dispatched a deputy up there and ultimately ended up at Carrillo’s house, which was about a mile from the van. When our deputies arrived, there were a lot of bad signs, including cameras all over the property and a dog in a bulletproof vest barking. They were on low ground on the road formulating a plan when Corrillo sniped Sergeant Gutzwiller with a single shot. He opened fire on the two other deputies there, shooting one in the chest. Fortunately the vest stopped that. Carrillo threw a pipe bomb that struck our deputy, who got a lot of shrapnel in his face and neck.

Those two deputies were able to get out of there. Carrillo then hijacked a car, engaged our highway patrol, shot a highway patrol officer, drove down a hill and into one of the two deputies fleeing the shooting. The deputy flew about 20 feet and survived. Carrillo ended up in the backyard of a local citizen who disarmed him of a rifle, a pistol, and a pipe bomb and held him until our deputies came to take him into custody.

So we’ve been looking into this boogaloo group, working extensively with the FBI and ATF. As Alex described, they’re very right-leaning domestic terrorists.

Carrillo was a sergeant in the Air Force assigned to the Ravens, which is a security detail. So he acted a lot like a military policeman on base, yet had this ideology of hating the police. He has some writings where he is concerned that the police and government are taking away his Second Amendment rights. He was also very upset about COVID-related orders to shelter in place and closings of beaches and businesses.

These guys communicate on WhatsApp, and while this incident was occurring, he was trying to call people in to help him out.

Question: What changes have you made due to this incident?

Sheriff Hart: We’ve definitely heightened security at our headquarters building. Our deputies are much more aware about responding with multiple units to calls in these rural areas. I’ve received threats from the boogaloos. Sergeant Gutzwiller’s wife has received threats from the boogaloos.

It’s a group that we’re taking very seriously. If law enforcement leaders are seeing these groups show up at events, they should be taken seriously.

Question:  Does this group wear anything unique or do anything else to identify themselves?

Sheriff Hart: They wear camouflage pants with a Hawaiian shirt. They have a patch with a frog. It’s a uniform that they wear.

Question:  Do you have any other recommendations for police executives?

Sheriff Hart: If there’s a jurisdiction that has identified someone as a boogaloo and they’re going to respond to that person’s home or property for any reason, they should do it with great care. Carrillo was very well armed. He had dozens of firearms, a lot of converted fully-automatic rifles, a lot of ammunition, shooting platforms on the property, body armor, and bomb-manufacturing equipment.


Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Assistant Sheriff Christopher Darcy:

Boogaloos Sometimes Use BLM Protests as Cover

Our experience in Las Vegas is that we’ve seen boogaloos at some of the Black Lives Matter protests. They have such an anti-government view that they may just go even if they stay apart from the Black Lives Matter protesters.

There is also a military component. A lot of these folks are out of the service, and they almost use that as a recruiting tool. They talk to other people out of the service who may be disenfranchised, and recruit them into this movement.

In our case we arrested three individuals, but they had contacts with a lot of other folks, trying to recruit them to join their cause. They specifically look for people who fill gaps for them, such as someone with firearms experience or other skills they can use. Because many have military training, they use that to put together a more effective team.

These three individuals were conspiring over several weeks. They knew they wanted to burn down government property or buildings owned by the government. At some points, they were talking about critical infrastructure. They really latched onto the protest movement, and their focus turned to causing damage and injury to police officers. I believe they see that all the protest activity going on provides them with camouflage. The police were very occupied with protests and everything else going on, and I think they were capitalizing on that aspect.

Question:   In Las Vegas, do they wear certain clothing or other signifiers that allow you to identify them?

Assistant Sheriff Darcy: At times they did, at times they didn’t. At a protest you see a lot of different people dressed in a lot of different ways. We have a lot of open-carry folks here, so we saw a lot of people armed at protests. And the boogaloo are strong supporters of firearms and the Second Amendment, so they blend in with the other open-carry protesters.

Question:   Are they focused on government facilities, or are they focused on people?

Assistant Sheriff Darcy: In this case, they focused on the government as an entity, and not just one or two specific people. They have great disdain for law enforcement, but in this particular case it was more about property.

Our lessons from this are that it’s very unpredictable, it’s very fluid, and they’re not afraid to use violence. You really need to have your investigative protocols up to speed, so that when you get information about these people conspiring, you can quickly respond and infiltrate and stop anything before it happens. 


The PERF Critical Issues Report is part of the Critical Issues in Policing project, supported by the Motorola Solutions Foundation.


PERF also is grateful to the Howard G. Buffett Foundation for supporting this work.