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February 5, 2023

GPD: Juarez had drugs when he died

Gilroy man also had warrant for arrest, police say

Gilroy Police revealed Thursday that 42-year-old Steven Juarez had suspected methamphetamine in his possession when he died in a struggle with officers on Feb. 25.
Gilroy Police Sgt. Jason Smith also said the man had an active arrest warrant at the time of the fatal encounter. He also revealed that multiple officers had some degree of physical contact with Juarez, and that all were wearing body cameras.
Smith said the substance that appeared to be meth, which was found “in (Juarez’) clothing,” will be tested in a crime lab to confirm it is an illegal drug. Juarez was also in possession of drug paraphernalia at the time of his death, Smith added.
Court records show that Juarez has been arrested on suspicion of drug-related charges at least three times in Gilroy since 2006.
The warrant for his arrest that was active Feb. 25 was for an unspecified probation violation, according to Smith.
Juarez, 42, of Gilroy, died after officers used a Taser, carotid restraint and other forceful measures to attempt to arrest him on the 7400 block of Chestnut Street in east Gilroy.
Police said earlier this week that officers arrived to the neighborhood on a report of a suspicious person, and that Juarez tried to run away on foot when he saw police at the scene. He allegedly jumped over a number of residential fences and onto rooftops during the pursuit, and police speculated that he might have fallen off a roof before officers caught up to him.
When officers tried to arrest Juarez, he began to struggle and resist, and verbally threatened the police. After seven Gilroy Police officers used varying degrees of force to arrest Juarez, he fell into medical distress and was transported to an area hospital, police said. He was pronounced dead at the hospital.
Memorial services for Juarez are scheduled for 4pm Tuesday, March 6 at Habing Family Funeral Home in Gilroy, according to Juarez’ cousin Rebeca Armendariz.
The Santa Clara County Coroner’s Office and District Attorney’s Office are investigating the Feb. 25 incident, along with the Gilroy Police Department.
All seven officers who responded to the “evolving call” were wearing body cameras, which recorded video of the Sunday night incident, Smith said. Gilroy Police patrol cars are also equipped with dash cameras, and those on scene Feb. 25 also captured footage that will be reviewed in the investigation.
Police declined to release that video footage while the investigation is underway.
Smith also revealed that all the Gilroy officers at the scene made some degree of physical contact with Juarez before his death, in an effort to detain him.
“That doesn’t mean they were using any kind of impact weapon or significant force,” Smith clarified. “It could be as simple as putting a hand on him to gain compliance. They all had involvement in some level of force” during the attempted arrest of Juarez.
A single officer applied a Taser and a carotid hold, police Capt. Joseph Deras said earlier this week. Smith said Thursday he did not know how many times Juarez was tased by the officer.
Furthermore, Smith said these use-of-force techniques occurred in a “pretty contemporaneous” timeline, and he “wouldn’t be comfortable” trying to pinpoint which move by the officers resulted in Juarez’ medical distress. He added that the coroner’s report, which is not yet completed, will offer more details about Juarez’ cause and manner of death.
“It happened so quick, once they were able to subdue him, the focus immediately switched to medical aid,” Smith said.
Authorities are conducting both a “criminal investigation and an administrative investigation,” Smith added. The purpose of the administrative inquiry, conducted by GPD, is to “see if any policies or procedures were violated.”
The department’s preliminary administrative investigation has not found any evidence of police misconduct, Smith said. For this reason and because the incident did not involve a shooting, Gilroy Police Chief Steve Smithee has not removed any of the officers involved from active police duty.
Gilroy administrative investigators interviewed all seven officers who responded to the Juarez incident within 24 hours after he was pronounced dead, Smith added.
The DA’s investigation will aim to determine if the officers involved in the death of Juarez acted unlawfully.
“We’re trying to answer one question and one question only: Were the officers’ actions legal within the law when they did what they did, when they caused the death of a person?” DA spokesman Sean Webby said of the office’s arrest-related investigations in general. He declined to comment on the investigation into the Feb. 25 Gilroy incident until it is completed.
Such investigations into police actions can take several months for the DA’s office to complete. Deputy DA Chuck Gillingham is leading the DA’s investigation into Juarez’ death.

‘Evolving incident’

As of Thursday, police were still declining to offer more details on which addresses on the 7400 block of Chestnut Street the pursuit of Juarez occurred. The incident started when a female resident of the block reported Juarez as a suspicious person trespassing in her backyard, police said.
Juarez began to run away as soon as he saw the first officers arrive, police said. The officers ran after him, and the chase spanned alleyways and “no less than three backyards of different residences,” Smith said Thursday.
At one point, Juarez led police to a residential property on Martin Street, but the pursuit returned to the 7400 block of Chestnut Street.
Seven officers, the “majority” of the department’s on-duty shift at the time, responded because the Feb. 25 incident was an “evolving incident” with unpredictable circumstances, Smith added.
“Any time you have somebody going into different residents’ backyards and on the roofs, we’re going to get as many people there as we can, and that’s what we did,” Smith said. “It’s so unfortunate that he died.”
Gilroy Police are seeking information from potential witnesses of the Feb. 25 arrest of Juarez and related incident. Anyone with information can call the Gilroy Police Department at  (408) 846-0350.

Michael Moore
Michael Moore is an award-winning journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor for the Morgan Hill Times, Hollister Free Lance and Gilroy Dispatch since 2008. During that time, he has covered crime, breaking news, local government, education, entertainment and more.

Please leave a comment


  1. There goes the Gilroy PD trying everything & anything to make Stevie look like a bad guy….for all those who know Stevie…he is not a violent person & sure in heck aint stupid to even strike a police officer because he knows the trouble the police would give him …what the GPD did to him was uncalled for! Theres just no excuse for it! I dont care if he had a probation warrant or if he had drugs on him…thats no reason to kill him! GPD killed him I dont care how much they try to smut up Stevie…they killed him & they had no reason to treat him that way ….I dont blame him for running from the officer ….everybody runs from them..look at what they do….hes not the first friend of mine that the GPD killed….God knows…& those officers know what they did…they will have to face our Creator one day…for now they gotta live with it & who knows how God will deal with them while theyre still here on earth…
    Your love ones & your friends know the real you…thats what no damn newspaper can ever change

    • Interesting comment, blame everyone but Steve for the roll he played in his own death.
      Let me help you with this.
      The real people to blame for Steve’s death was his friends and family. You claim he was sooooo loved but you did nothing to help him get his life together, other than offering a couch for him to sleep on. You and solely you, enabled Steve his whole life and allowed him to stay hooked on drugs, live the way he did and never wanting him to be more than what he was when he died; a drugged out loser with active warrants for his arrest.
      I hope you guys, his so called loved ones, can sleep at night. But hey, if blaming everyone else helps, rather than taking the slightest bit of responsibility, then keep it up. From what Ive read from all the articles and comments, you guys are great at pretending to care.

      • Did you know stevie cause if you did you wouldnt be talking crap about him please just your comments to your self. And we do love him so you could go f your self.

  2. I don’t know him but I do know this. He left behind a number of kids that he didn’t support. That alone makes him a bad dude.
    He did drugs and probably stole from people to pay for them…that makes him a bad dude.
    He had an arest record a mile long..that makes him a bad dude.
    The world is not worse now that he is gone. Plenty of people make mistakes…he paid for his.
    Good riddance!!!


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