4 California militia members plead guilty to conspiracy

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Four members of an alleged California militia group have pleaded guilty to conspiring to obstruct justice in the case of a federal guard who was fatally shot in Oakland more than a year ago, federal prosecutors said.

The men — followers of the “boogaloo” movement, a concept embraced by a loose network of gun enthusiasts and militia-style extremists — are accused of conspiring to destroy communications and other records about the May 29, 2020, killing of federal security officer David Patrick Underwood and attempted murder of his partner by one of their members.

Underwood was fatally shot and his partner was shot and wounded as they guarded the Ronald V. Dellums Federal Building in Oakland while a large demonstration over the police killing of George Floyd was underway nearby. Prosecutors have accused a fifth alleged member of the group of opening fire.

In April, a federal grand jury indicted Jessie Alexander Rush, 29, of Turlock; Robert Jesus Blancas, 33, of Castro Valley; Simon Sage Ybarra, 23, of Los Gatos; and Kenny Matthew Miksch, 21, of San Lorenzo, on charges of conspiracy to obstruct justice.

Miksch on Monday became the fourth member of the so-called Grizzly Scouts to plead guilty to conspiring to obstruct justice. Rush and Ybarra pleaded guilty to a single charge of conspiracy to obstruct justice last week and Blancas last month, according to recent plea agreements with the Northern District of California U.S. Attorney’s Office that were announced Monday.

All four face up to 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 and are scheduled to be sentenced starting in December, prosecutors said.

Blancas, the only defendant who remains jailed, also pleaded guilty to a child enticement charge after federal prosecutors said they discovered dozens of pornographic photos and videos of a 15-year-old during the investigation.

The officers were shot on May 29, 2020. Prosecutors said Air Force Staff Sgt. Steven Carrillo, 32, fatally shot Underwood and wounded his partner. They said Carrillo used the protest as cover for the crime and for his escape. Carrillo has pleaded not guilty and the Air Force did not immediately respond Thursday to an emailed request for comment on whether he is still in the force.

Carrillo was arrested after the June 6, 2020 killing of Santa Cruz Sheriff Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller in an ambush in the community of Ben Lomond. Carrillo has also pleaded not guilty to Gutzwiller’s killing.

Miksch, Rush, Ybarra and Blancas admitted they periodically held group meetings for firearms training and other purposes, according to prosecutors. They engaged in armed, in-person “training operations” in May 2020 that labeled law enforcement as potential “enemy forces” and suggested using lethal force and taking prisoners, the prosecutors said.

“All four acknowledged in their plea agreements that they engaged in June 2020 discussions with other Grizzly Scouts about “boog” (boogaloo), waging war against the government, and tactics for killing law enforcement personnel, including police officers,” the prosecutors said.

Miksch was responsible for the group’s training and firearms instruction, the prosecutors said. Rush — who also had military experience — named himself the group’s “commanding officer,” Ybarra handled recruitment and Blancas was responsible for the group’s security and intelligence, the prosecutors said.

Prosecutors have said in court filings that the militia group had about 25 members and had formed a “Quick Reaction Force” that was supposed to carry out attacks during mass demonstrations.