Man Dies After Foot Chase, Struggle With Gilroy Police

A man died Sunday after a struggle with Gilroy police, and his family is blaming officers for the death of their loved one.

Officers deployed a Taser and a carotid hold while taking the man into custody because he was violently resisting and making threats, police said. Witnesses told a family member multiple officers were seen beating the man, but police said the man appeared to have suffered injuries before officers made contact with him.

Family identified the man as 24-year-old Steven Juarez. Rebeca Armendariz, who said Juarez was her cousin, said he died in police custody.

"My cousin was alive when the police found him, and he died at their hands," Armendariz said.

At about 9:55 p.m. Sunday, Gilroy officers responded to the 7400 block of Chestnut Street on a report of a suspicious person, police said. The reporting party saw an unknown male in their backyard.

When officers arrived, the man fled on foot and continued to run away even after officers used directed him to surrender, police said.

Eventually, he made his way onto the roof of at least two nearby homes.

The suspect appeared to have been bleeding from his face, and a witness reported hearing a noise consistent with a fall before officers contacted him, police said. When police tried to take him into custody, he acted violently and resisted arrest and made threats, police said.

Officers deployed a Taser and used physical force and a carotid restraint, and at some point during the struggle, the suspect was in medical distress, police said.

Officers initiated life saving measures before Gilroy Fire Department personnel arrived and took over, and the man was taken to a hospital, where he later died, police said.

According to a Armendariz, witnesses told her they saw a group of officers beating the man. The cousin added that the man's mother was told her son died from blunt force trauma.

"The witnesses said that they kept beating on him and that he was calling and pleading for them to stop," she said.

Police Capt. Joseph Deras said Juarez refused to comply and resisted. He said officers did everything by the book.

"The District Attorney's Office has been in our building all day and all night interviewing these involved officers," he said Monday night. "So if there was any type of allegation or suspicion that a gang of officers beat someone up, I can assure you that they would be taking proper steps to rectify that through the legal system."

The man's family held a vigil Monday night at Martin and Chestnut streets in Gilroy.

The Santa Clara County Coroner’s Office is conducting an independent investigation to determine the cause of death, police said. The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office also is investigating the incident, police said.

Anyone with information related to the case is urged to call the Investigations Bureau at (408) 846-0350.

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