When the FBI turned up the heat, he pled stupidity
Robert Alvin Justus Jr. had had enough. He needed the FBI to help him get something off his chest.
Justus had driven an unmarked white van past the federal building in Oakland two weeks earlier, in May 2020, while his acquaintance, a U.S. Air Force sergeant named Steven Carrillo, shelled the building’s security booth, killing one Federal Protective Services security officer and injuring another.
But now that Carrillo was in jail, Justus was becoming increasingly paranoid. He’d seen a silver SUV with tinted windows outside his Millbrae apartment and guessed, correctly, that it belonged to the FBI. But mostly, he was afraid that other members of the Boogaloo movement — a loosely organized anti-government group that is preparing for a second Civil War and is said to have inspired the Oakland attack — would come after him.
“My life’s been a living hell since then,” Justus told the FBI agents at the start of an hours-long interrogation in June 2020. “Honestly, I wish I’d never f—ing done any of this,” he later admitted.
A transcript of that FBI interrogation has now been made public for the first time, revealing new details about what led up to an assassination committed steps away from a massive George Floyd demonstration, and foreshadowing Justus’ likely legal defense. Justus’ trial is set to begin next week; he is accused of murder and attempted murder.
According to the transcript, the 33-year-old father of two attempted to portray himself as an unwilling participant in the murder of 53-year-old FPS Officer Dave “Patrick” Underwood, putting the majority of the blame on Carrillo, who had been apprehended in Santa Cruz County for ambushing police officers and murdering Sheriff’s Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller after the Underwood killing.
When agents pressed Justus on why he didn’t do more to stop the Underwood shooting, he blamed it on inexperience.
According to the transcript, “I was elected class clown every f—ing year in school,” Justus insisted. “I don’t pay as much attention to f—ing everything as I should.” “I’m a complete moron.”
According to the prosecutors, the 33-year-old locksmith arrived at the San Francisco federal building at 450 Golden Gate Ave. on June 11, 2020, accompanied by his mother and father, who informed security at the front desk that their son wanted to see the FBI.
According to Justus’ own statements to the FBI, it appears likely that he will portray himself to jurors as a hostage, who thought he was going to Oakland that night to protest the police killing of Floyd, but ended up as Carrillo’s driver on a mission to “kill as many cops, agents, if possible.”
Carrillo pleaded guilty to the murders of Underwood and Gutzwiller. He received 41 years in federal prison for the Oakland shooting and life in prison without the possibility of parole for the Ben Lomond ambush. He is currently incarcerated at Mule Creek State Prison.
According to the 202-page transcript, FBI agents befriended Justus and asked him to repeat his story three times in great detail. They gave him cigarettes and soda during interrogation breaks and made small talk about the COVID-19 pandemic, the Revolutionary War, and video games.
Justus told his story as he and his father sat in a room with multiple FBI agents, who interrogated him not only about the May 29, 2020 shooting, but also about his communications with Boogaloo movement followers. He met Carrillo through a Facebook group for Boogaloo fans called “/K/alifornia Kommando,” which has since been closed down.
“I’m scared,” Justus admitted to his father during the interview.
FBI Agent Richard Harvey assured Justus that if he stayed focused and told the truth, he would feel enormous relief.
“Believe me when I say you’ll feel a million times better once you get this off your chest,” Harvey said.
Justus then told the FBI that he met Carrillo through a Boogaloo group on Facebook and decided to ride with him to the protest instead of taking BART. They met in the San Leandro BART parking lot, and things quickly went south.Carrillo, he claimed, pulled back a homemade curtain inside the van, revealing body armor, numerous firearms, and molotov cocktails. Carrillo then spotted an AC Transit bus driver approaching and threatened to kill him.
“‘Dude, he just looks like some dude on his break,’ I said. Just don’t do it, he’s not paying attention. ‘Do not do that.'” Justus informed the FBI. “(Carrillo) considered it and replied, ‘Yeah, you’re right. Okay.’ He then returned to filling up more magazines.”
Then, according to Justus, Carrillo pointed a rifle at him and accused him of being a “cop or a rat.” When Justus assured him that this was not the case, he instructed him to drive the van to Oakland.
When they arrived at the Oakland federal building on Clay Street, Justus declared that he was going to try to talk Carrillo out of doing anything. According to the transcript, he thought they were just going to drive away when Carrillo surprised him by opening the door of the moving van and firing at the booth.
“I told him they look like security guards, not cops.” But then he opened the door and shot them,” Justus explained. “Then the door shut, and he pointed the gun at me, yelling at me to drive.”
Justus described Carrillo as “energetic” after the shooting, a marked change from his previous “scary calm” demeanor. When the shots rang out, Justus said he saw Underwood and the second officer fall to the ground, but he tried to convince himself that no one was hurt.
They made their way toward the freeway, but an exit was blocked by CHP officers. Carrillo instructed Justus to grab a handful of nails and throw them out the window onto the road as the van continued on, then suggested driving toward Concord. Justus said he convinced Carrillo to return to Millbrae and go home because he was afraid he would be killed next.
Justus said he told Carrillo he was going home to drink some bourbon he’d been saving for years before they parted ways. When he returned home, he made excuses whenever Carrillo asked to hang out again, and he deleted messages from his phone because “I just really wanted no part of any of this to begin with.” He stated that he waited until after Carrillo’s arrest in Ben Lomond to come forward in order to “get things straightened out with my kids.”
Harvey turned up the heat on Justus at the end of the interview, questioning whether he was truly as clueless as he claimed.
“It’s blatantly obvious that when you land in Oakland, something really bad is about to happen,” Harvey explained. “And you have two chances when you’re walking for at least five to seven minutes on both occasions, and nothing happens.” …What does that tell anyone, a reasonable human being looking in from the outside, what does that say about that fact pattern?”
“I don’t know,” Justus said.
“Well, you don’t know?” Harvey demanded. “You have no idea what most people would think when…”
“I want a lawyer,” Justus interjected.
Justus was then arrested by FBI agents for murder, attempted murder, and “conspiracy to do the same.” He changed his tone, asked for another cigarette, complained about a sore hemorrhoid, and threatened to urinate on himself if they didn’t take him to the restroom.
“You mentioned that we were respectful to one another and communicated effectively. Why did you start yelling and raising your voice?” He inquired of Harvey.
“We’re done talking, brother,” Harvey said. They then placed him on a federal hold at the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin.