Man who died after police struggle identified

Family and friends identified the 42-year-old Gilroy man who died Feb. 25 after a struggle with Gilroy police as Steven Juarez, a longtime local resident who was well-known by friends and relatives in town.

Just after 6pm Wednesday, Gilroy Police sent out a press release that identified Juarez as the man who died Feb. 25.

Police said the foot pursuit and other circumstances leading up to the arrest and subsequent death of a Gilroy man—including an officer’s use of a Taser and a neck hold in an effort to detain the man—are under investigation.

A Gilroy Police Department spokesman said Tuesday, Feb. 27, that officers acted “appropriately and lawfully” in their attempt to arrest Juarez.

A family member said she thinks the police used excessive force, leading to Juarez’ death.
“We are comfortable the officers acted appropriately, based on the evidence we have in front of us,” said Gilroy Police Capt. Joseph Deras. He added that investigators from the DA’s office have been in Gilroy since Sunday night “monitoring and conducting interviews” with Gilroy officers involved in Juarez’ arrest.

Juarez’ cousin, Rebeca Armendariz, said she has spoken to witnesses of the Feb. 25 incident who she said told her “they saw multiple police beating on him, and he was screaming for them to stop.” Armendariz said the GIlroy police account of the incident doesn’t match up with Juarez’ non-threatening demeanor, his physically small stature and his friendliness with residents of the neighborhood where police subdued him.

“There was a lot of people there that knew Steven, and would allow Steven to stay with them,” Armendariz said. “They are pretty devastated with what they witnessed.”
She added Juarez was “kind of goofy and silly” and will be missed by his four sons, siblings, cousins, friends and relatives. “He was a big-hearted, easy-going person,” Armendariz said.

Escalation of force

Gilroy Police officers attempted to arrest Juarez after a resident of the 7400 block of Chestnut Street called to report a suspicious person in her backyard, four blocks east of Monterey Street, just before 10pm Feb. 25. When police arrived to the residence, the suspect “made eye contact” with an officer and immediately fled on foot, according to Deras.

The officers verbally told Juarez to surrender, but he continued to run away, reads a Feb. 26 press release from Gilroy police. The suspect made his way onto the roof of at least two nearby residences.

The press release from Gilroy police noted that before making any physical contact with Juarez (not identified by name in the release), officers said it appeared he was bleeding from his face. Deras added that this wound appeared to be near the suspect’s forehead.
A nearby witness told officers of hearing a noise that sounded like someone or something fell from a roof, Deras said.

The officers caught up to Juarez on the ground in front of another residence nearby and approached him in an effort to arrest him, according to police and other sources. Juarez “acted violently and resisted their efforts and made threatening statements,” police said.
The release said officers began to use “less lethal force” techniques to take the man into custody. These methods included the use of an electronic control device (Taser), physical force and a “carotid restraint” on his neck, according to Gilroy police.

Seven Gilroy Police officers were in the neighborhood responding to the call by the time police made contact with Juarez, Deras said. He said a single officer used both the Taser and carotid restraint on Juarez.

At one point during the struggle—after the carotid-restraint hold was applied—the officers noticed the man was in medical distress, the Feb. 26 press release states. The officers initiated first aid, which Gilroy Fire Department personnel took over when they arrived at the scene.

A cell phone video from a neighbor, acquired by Armendariz, shows Juarez on a stretcher, surrounded by police and firefighters and being lifted from the ground in the front yard of a home on Chestnut Street into an ambulance.

Authorities transported Juarez to a nearby hospital with a trauma center, where he was pronounced dead, according to police.

A carotid restraint is a “higher level of force” that Gilroy Police officers are approved to use “when you’re running out of options” to take an uncooperative suspect into custody, Deras said. The technique is different from a chokehold or “arm bar”—which Gilroy police are not authorized to deploy—even though it might look similar.

“It’s a method we can use to render somebody unconscious, so we can get them into custody,” Deras said. “Typically they (wake up) within 15 to 30 seconds.”

In this incident, the suspect did not regain consciousness after the officers’ use of force, police said.

Deras added he is aware there might be private security camera footage from residences in the neighborhood that depicts at least portions of the foot pursuit and subsequent use of force on Juarez. Investigators are in the process of attempting to acquire that footage.
While Deras declined to identify Juarez as the deceased man in the Feb. 25 incident, he told the Dispatch that Gilroy Police have a history of contact with “a person named Steven Juarez.”

All of the officers involved in the incident remain on active duty at GPD, Deras said. However, that could change if the joint investigation with the DA’s office finds evidence that one or more officers committed a crime or broke procedure.

The Santa Clara County Coroner’s Office is conducting an independent investigation to determine what caused Juarez’ death.

Furthermore, a joint investigation with the DA’s Office is underway, pursuant to county law enforcement protocols, according to Gilroy Police.

A spokesperson from the DA’s office said, “Fatal encounters where law enforcement is involved will call for a joint investigation with our office.” The office declined to provide any other information about the incident while the investigation was continuing.
Anyone with information about this incident can contact Gilroy Police at (408) 846-0350.

22 COMMENTS

  1. Good job GPD! We dont need more of these criminals on the street,breaking into our homes. The suspect made his decision to break the law, run from the police and resist arrest. Play stupid games, win stupid prizes…

    • Who said he was brwaking into people’s home’s hopefully you’ll feel tge same when one of your family member’s life ends with the same actions…no compassion for living, breathing human life wow… lets hope that GOD will allow you to rest peacefully in your home know that you have no reapect for human life I’m sure your parwnts are proude of how they’ve raised you awesome job….ignorant scum

  2. I know who he is and what ever they did they didn’t have to he wasn’t no big guy where all of them had to take his life no matter how you look at it thats what they did they were that scared of him where they had to kill him cause that’s what gilroy PD did and going to get away with it I hope some one got it all on camera you no some one did that’s the hood don’t let them get away with it laugh about it later

  3. To anonymous that was my friend hey I not scared to put my name don’t talk about it be. About it he knows everybody in that area so he wasn’t riping off maybe just trying to find some where to kick back at so you think that was good of what they did your stupid for that

  4. Having to put trust in the law and expecting it to uphold our constitutional human right’s and something so tragic to happen to a loved one is really a sickening thing what a disgrace to be proud or not understanding that a precious life have been taken by the hands of “the protectors”its an unsettling feeling knowing that we can only put trust into our selves…with so many similar incidents happing all over the nation and near by you would think by now that law makers and Congress would put an end to all of this mad behavior living by statistics and stereotyping people committing such violent acts against a person who talks walks eats and breathes like everyone else in the world does and discard he or she’s life like its a trend really blows my mind. We all need to stand up to this type of criminal behavior that law enforcement is inflicting on our innocent loved ones we have lost… This has to end if its as easy that the “stae and government” requires us to obey by the law and face criminal charges when its broken so should every police officer that fail to obey the law and up hold their pledge to protect us a as they swore to do….

  5. Well, Suspect falls from roof to ground, attempts escape, (Given minority status, and dubious survivability in custody, this seems a reasonable action). Is then caught, beaten, Tased, Choked, and …Killed. No one deserves that.

    Dear Anon up there is trolling for the killers, nice bait, nasty post, should draw them out.

    Bottom line he was too poor to give a shit about. sad that.
    I hope the Code of Hammurabi plays out and an eye for an eye is taken.

  6. Everyone close to this guy is blaming everything other than Steven Juarez. Fact of the matter is quite different. So before you start bringing God, eye for an eye, the system, and that her was poor.. think of this…

    He was in possession and on methamphetamine during the encounter… When you are on meth you literally hurt yourself and others. Police can’t just nicely say, Ok we are going to handcuff you and take you in…
    He was arrested 3X for drug related charges and had an active arrest warrant
    He resisted arrest and threatened police

    It’s too bad he he didn’t learn his lesson. He is a casualty of his own… Brother, cousin or wherever all the people on this comment is saying… He played with the devil all by his doing and his death was the result of his own doing… The police did the right thing here, lawfully and within the their stature…

  7. I’m at a loss for words. . . Met him in 1994, Stevie was away respectful, goofy, funny and a caring loving friend. . . He will be missed. . .Rest in Paradise

  8. Steven wasnt a bad person he was a very loving kind hearted guy every one needs to stop talking bad about him if you didnt know him shut the f””k up about him keep his name out your mouth. REST IN PEACE COUSIN.

  9. Wow I’m mind blown by some of these comments….. First off, I’M SORRY BUT GOD IS NOT HIRING! HE IS THE ONLY ONE WHO SAYS WHO GOES & WHO STAYS! FOR GPD TO TAKE HIS LIFE LIKE THEY DID IS WRONG. HIS 8TH AMENDMENT WAS VIOLATED! TRUST THAT THE GOD I SERVE WILL GET ALL HIS VENGEANCE! WITH ALL WHO WERE INVOLVED. INCLUDING ALL THE ANONYMOUS TRASH TALKING MFers. MEMBER EVERYONE WILL MEET THE MAKER! PLEASE NONE OF THE TRASH TALKING MF’S YOU SCARED! YOU SHOULD BE….. CAUSE THE GOD I SERVE IS MIGHTY! HE FOR SURE DNT LIKE UGLY & AIN’T TO FOND OF PRETTY!

  10. My father is with God and all the dark will be shown out of you people speaking fowl about his struggle. The police took his life and he left 5 children behind. This report did no research on my family because they think we are to poor and dumb to take a stand. Well my words will carry heavy to make this right. I don’t trust police or feel safe with these guys hurting the lost and confused. Their process was wrong and they have more information they are afraid to show because of guilt. I read the papers and so did my lawyer. We will stand to make things right because their is no payment that can cover this pain.

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