City settles in wrongful death lawsuit

Gilroy to pay $1 million to family of 2015 incident

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The City of Gilroy has settled a lawsuit with the family of Hector Alvarez, who died when police shot him during an emergency call on Filbro Drive in 2015, according to the family’s lawyer.

Under the settlement of the wrongful death lawsuit, the city has agreed to pay $1 million to Alvarez’s mother and two minor children, said attorney Jaime Leanos. The agreement states the City of Gilroy is not admitting that it was responsible for Alvarez’s death.

“It’s not going to replace their father, but hopefully it can help them move forward with their lives,” Leanos said.

Gilroy Human Resources Director LeeAnn McPhillips said the case is not closed as of July 27, and the city’s attorney advised her not to comment on the reported outcome of the lawsuit.

The settlement was filed in court earlier this month, Leanos said.

Alvarez, 19 at the time, died in a confrontation with Gilroy Police Dec. 14, 2015, outside an apartment complex on the 6800 block of Filbro Drive. Alvarez was unarmed, but investigators said he made threatening gestures toward Officer Adam Moon before Moon shot him, according to authorities.

DA Jeff Rosen’s office conducted an investigation of the shooting, and determined that Moon did not act illegally when he shot Alvarez, according to a report compiled by the DA’s office in 2016.

About 7pm Dec. 14, 2015, an anonymous witness called 911 to report an ongoing domestic violence incident at the apartment complex. The male suspect, later identified as Alvarez, was allegedly assaulting a woman outside one of the apartments, according to the DA’s report.

Moon was the first police officer to respond to the call. While he waited for backup at the bottom of a stairwell, Alvarez emerged from an upstairs apartment and began descending toward Moon, the DA’s report says. Moon told Alvarez to stop and put his hands up, but Alvarez continued down the stairs.

The DA’s report notes that Alvarez initially had his hands raised as he walked down the stairs. However, after Moon drew and displayed his service weapon, Alvarez allegedly lowered his hands and twice reached into his waistband.

Moon also told investigators that, while Alvarez was descending the stairs, his facial expression and body language changed “in a manner (Moon) felt to be threatening,” the DA’s report says. After reaching into his waistband a second time, Alvarez began to “charge” at Moon, who could no longer see the suspect’s hands. Moon then sprinted backward while firing his weapon four times toward Alvarez.

Paramedics pronounced Alvarez dead at the scene a short time later. No weapon was found on him, the DA’s report says.

The DA’s report concluded that Moon, fearing for his life, acted in self defense when he shot Alvarez.

Leanos, however, continues to dispute certain aspects of the DA’s report. He said “a number of factors” suggest that Moon did not follow police training in his response to the December 2015 emergency call.

“Mr. Alvarez was unarmed, cooperating and coming down the stairs with his hands up,” Leanos said.

Furthermore, the attorney finds it “hard to believe” that Alvarez—who was about 5-feet, 4-inches tall and 145 pounds—could be perceived as a threat by Moon—who is more than 6 feet tall and about 225 pounds.

“It is common for a police officer to say ‘I was threatened’ after they use deadly force,” Leanos said.

Leanos added that Alvarez was not a gang member, despite police and DA’s investigators’ claims otherwise.

He also disputed the report of a domestic violence incident involving Alvarez, as there was no violence or evidence of violence when Moon and other officers arrived at the scene.

The DA’s report says the alleged victim in the 2015 domestic violence call gave investigators contradictory statements about what happened in the events leading up to Alvarez’s death.

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