Family of Steven Juarez Sues Gilroy PD for Wrongful Death

A lawsuit filed by the family of Steven Juarez claims the seven Gilroy police officers who chased and subdued him the night of Feb. 25, 2018, illegally detained him and used excessive force while arresting the 42-year-old man moments before he died.

The lawsuit accuses the officers, as well as the city of Gilroy, of several violations of Juarez’s constitutional rights—including unlawful detention, excessive force, false imprisonment and denial of due process—and seeks an unspecified amount of monetary damages. It also accuses the officers of wrongfully causing Juarez’s death.

It also claims the city was negligent in causing Juarez’s death, and failed to adequately train the officers who arrested Juarez.

Juarez died in police custody after officers responded to a 911 call reporting a suspicious person on the 7400 block of Chestnut Street in east Gilroy.

When police arrived at the scene, Juarez ran when he saw the officers, who eventually caught up to him and used a variety of force techniques—including multiple Tasers and a carotid artery hold—to keep him from struggling during the arrest. Juarez passed out when the carotid hold was applied, and was pronounced dead shortly afterward.

The family’s lawsuit says the officers gave “unlawful commands” for Juarez to stop walking in the area, and “physically beat (Juarez) with their hands, fists, feet and batons.” It also claims that when attempting to apply the carotid hold, an officer instead choked Juarez “in a manner that restricted (his) airway.”

“(Juarez) died as a result of the unlawful, unnecessary, excessive and deadly force employed by the defendant officers,” reads claim. The police acted, states the lawsuit,  that Juarez was not posing a threat to the public or officers prior to his arrest.

The complaint was filed in U.S. District Court March 9 by Juarez’s mother, Martha Silos, his adult sons Steven Juarez Jr. and Andrew Juarez, his three young children and his wife, Catrina Molina. The plaintiffs are identified as family members and “successors in interest” to Steven Juarez. Lawyer Alfredo Morales filed the claim on behalf of the family.

Named as defendants are the city of Gilroy, and police officers Michael McMahon, David Ludden, Chris Silva, Jason Greathead, Martin Beltran, Diana Barrett and Kenneth Ellsworth. The city has not yet been served with the lawsuit, Gilroy Human Resources Manager LeeAnn McPhillips said. Gilroy Police Sgt. Jason Smith said the department does not comment on pending litigation.

The Juarez family’s lawsuit contradicts numerous points in the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s investigation of the officers’ conduct, including the use of the carotid hold. A report of that investigation was released Feb. 22, and cleared the officers of wrongdoing or criminal conduct.

The DA’s review found that Juarez was highly impaired by methamphetamine during the 2018 incident, and continued to fight with officers through multiple stun gun shocks, baton strikes, distraction punches and other efforts to handcuff him. The DA also found that Juarez has a history of resisting arrest in Gilroy.

The DA’s office also released a three-minute video of the final moments of Juarez’s arrest, leading up to the carotid hold that left him unconscious. Cops said in that video that Juarez was still breathing after he fell unconscious, and sat him up in a “recovery position.” The DA’s report says the cops then called for paramedics and an ambulance.

The family’s lawsuit, however, says the officers “did not timely summon medical care or permit medical personnel to treat (Juarez) immediately.” This delay of care caused Juarez “extreme physical and emotional pain and suffering.” The lawsuit says Juarez died at the scene, though police and the DA’s office have claimed he was pronounced dead in an ambulance on the way to a San Jose hospital.

The Gilroy Police Department policy on use-of-force states that officers must call for emergency medical help immediately after any successful deployment of a carotid artery hold. The hold is intended to cut off the detainee’s blood flow through the carotid artery, rendering them unconscious—not to restrict the person’s ability to breathe.

The DA’s report includes a description of the county medical examiner’s autopsy report of Juarez’s body. This report does not list any injuries to Juarez’s neck, throat or windpipe, though it includes more than 20 blunt force injuries, contusions, cuts and scrapes throughout his body.

The Juarez lawsuit does not include exhibits or other evidence explaining why the family thinks he was choked to death. Morales, the family’s attorney, did not respond to a phone call requesting comment.

The family filed a claim for damages with the city on Aug. 17, 2018. The Gilroy City Council denied that claim, opening the way for the family to pursue damages in federal court with the March 9 lawsuit.

Juarez’s family is suing the city and defendant officers for unspecified “wrongful death damages for the violation of (Juarez’s) rights,” as well as “funeral and burial expenses, punitive damages (and) attorney’s fees,” according to the lawsuit.

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.


    • Amen! That short You Tube video should be shown in every school in the country.
      Another dead dumbass speed freak. Boo Hoo!

  1. There should be penalties for lying via a lawsuit, instead of simply losing or dismissing the case. The facts of the case and Steven’s bad behavior are already well documented.

    Whatever attorney wrote this drivel down and filed it should be looked at for ethics violations… the Bar has standards regarding their behavior too. Obviously a low bar given what we now know of Jeff Adachi… but complete misrepresentation of reality is at issue here.

    Time for the clown circus to get out of town. This family has shown that’s it not just Steven that was defective… it’s genetic… and now spreading to the defense attorneys’ offices.

    • Jate, someone unable to have minimal compassion for a family who has lost a family member in such tragic way not only shows neuronal defect but a stinky heart, if there is a heart. A wrongful death lawsuit is significant. This is the second big law suit the Gilroy Police is facing. The other one the dispatcher that reported their sexual misconduct. Me and others have stories to share to support these Two cases, preponderance of evidence. There is a pattern. It is too big to try to cover it with a finger. If this is left to DA JEFF Rosen nothing will really happen he will cover up for police too. I just met today with some at a governmental office about a case this DA office decided not to file charges. The criminal is a former San Jose Police. That is the pattern I am talking about. It is a federal fraud. DA office no longer has the respect of this community. RECALL JEFF ROSEN!

      • Wow. That’s out there…

        This use of force case is all about potential settlement $$$$$$ from the City. Plaintiffs attorneys know this and they file in federal court for a number of reasons. One of them is that federal courts don’t recognize POBR or Pitchess so obtaining peace officer’s personnel files is so much easier. Also, since the focus is on potential US Constitution violations, the federal courts are more apt to let cases move forward, at least to mediation, instead of granting the City’s request summary judgement and dismissal in superior court.

        This just means the City must spend more of its resident’s hard earned tax money to fight the case and so it becomes a business decision to settle for maybe five or six figures as the City would pay a lot more to fight the case all the way through jury trial, etc. And, since there is always a chance a jury could assign some iota of responsibility to the City, settling for a hundred thou or so becomes attractive. And then there’s plaintiff’s attorney costs. It’s all about billable hours to soak the City for if the City does not completely prevail.

        Families will often say it’s all about justice because after all, who wants to admit it’s only all about the $$$$?

        Just my opinion. It’s still an unfair, cold cruel world out there. I agree with the OP in that something needs to change with how easy it is to file these cases. If there was no “deep pocket” then this case would not be happening.

  2. If you need someone to support your case about Gilroy Police corruption. Ask SJI for my email. You have to show your are related to the deceased person and part of suit. Ask your lawyer to contact SJI. I will be willing to testify how they cover up for one another.

    • > Ask SJI for my email. . . . . I will be willing to testify how they cover up for one another.


      If you have no first hand knowledge of anything, I don’t see that you have anything to contribute to this lawsuit but your factless prejudices.

      Go back to your Bible and re-read the part about “bearing false witness”.

      • Bubble, I do have first hand knowledge. A former Mayer resigned just after I reported some behaviors if Gilroy Police. DA offices and judges part blind eyes. Some of these officers need to be fired. I lived in Gilroy for 24 years.

        • Fex you cannot even formulate a complete sentence. Please stop. You truly look silly. The public is growing weary of these thug criminals that put themselves in a bad place by their bad behavior. These families have thugs running amok all over San Jose and Gilroy. Its all good until one runs their game at the police. Just sucking on the taxpayer teat.

          • Deniable informer, the Gilroy community was shocked by the killing of this young man. We also know the dirty ways of the Gilroy Police Department. He was not a danger to the community just to the Gilroy Police cry babies who were probably looking for a “bravery” news article. Gilroy is always spending money due to the negligence and even criminal acts of its police officers and Gilroy School District officials. There was at least one case of a Gilroy High teacher engaging in illegal sexual behavior with students. The GUSD and the Gilroy police gave blind eye to it. It is until these cases are public that people pay attention. The city of Gilroy has some employees that are a significant liability for the people of Gilroy. Some of the Gilroy Police Department officers need to be fired today not tomorrow!

          • Some of the biggest criminals I know are police officers from Gilroy and San Jose, attorneys, and judges. They are the human trush of this county disguised by law abiding citizens. They are also technically sociopaths. We get to know them when they can no longer hide. I wish these Gilroy officers will be fired once the lawsuits are completed!

        • > Bubble, I do have first hand knowledge.

          Still not clear that your “testimony” has any specific relevance.

          “I know some cops who I think are bad.
          There are cops involved in this case, so they must be bad, too.”

          Hopefully, the law and the courts have enough integrity and smarts to NOT accept this as “first hand knowledge” or “eyewitness testimony”.

          • Are you talking about the SANTA CLARA COUNTY COURTS? They are the web of corruption and JEFF Rosen the big spider at the center of the web. His office pediorically dismisses cases where the alleged criminals are the police. I would not give details as a way to keep the information intact. As I stated, a Gilroy Mayor resigned/retired unexpectedly two weeks after I reported Gilroy Police Corruption to his office. I am one of significant voices in Gilroy with stories to share. Gilroy is a small community. You really get to know people and learn their stories. This includes the police stories inside and outside the job.

      • Myself and many others work with clients we are substance users. Most of them have a dual diagnosis. Police need to be trained on how to interact with this population. They are cry babies and anything make them fear for their lives! GET TRAINED! You appear to be the loser by your level of ignorance!

  3. In today’s political climate, having a family member who is a methamphetamine using loser with a history of fighting with the police, and other violent crimes, is like having a lottery ticket.

    Methamphetamine, which this pinhead was reportedly, even undoubtedly, using, is an extremely powerful stimulant. It accelerates the heart rate to extremely dangerous levels, it increases blood pressure astronomically and increases the chance of a heart attack and/or a stroke to incredibly high levels. If one adds sudden extreme physical exertion, like fighting with the police, on top of a bloodstream full of meth, this is a physiological time bomb waiting to explode, or in this case, and for this family, a lottery ticket lawsuit, waiting to be cashed.

    Where was this “loving family” when this dope fiend was sliding into the dark vortex of drug addiction? Methamphetamine use is one of the more obvious addictions to spot.

    • I can tell you are a police officer. Your thought process is evidence of that. Get at least the CIT. Few officers have that.

      • I can tell you are mentally unstable. Your thought process is evidence of that. Get a therapist. Few mentally ill do that.

  4. I can tell Jate and J. S. are the same officer. You reaction to my response to J. S. is evidence. It was a test for you Jate! Those of us in the mental health field are typically confused as the ones with conditions. WE TREAT THEM. Go get some help!

    • Ms. Fexxnist,

      You could not be more wrong. I am not Jate, not by a long shot and if it mattered, I might almost be offended.

      What about my thought process made you think I was a police officer? Was it my suggestion of accountability on the part of the family and the dead doper? What exactly is it about the concept of accountability that offends you so?

      I am no more a police officer than you are some sort of gushing, pot-smoking, criminal-behavior apologist social worker. I wish I was a police officer. If I was, and some meth head was trashing your house, threatening your neighbors, terrorizing and beating the hell out of you and your family, I guarantee you I would stand by and do nothing so as not to offend your sensibilities and to avoid a lawsuit, as well as allegations of some odd sort of corruption conceived in the Twilight Zone.

      Believe what you wish but leave the rest of us to wander in reality.

      • I suspect Sir, that you confuse me with Nate Jaeger… an offensive person indeed. Although that person has not commented in quite some time, Fexxnist appears to be the feminist nazi version of him.

        I prefer to think of Jate as more akin to Superman while Nate would be Bizarro. Good day.

  5. Not a social worker here. You see, you also make assumptions. What make you think I am a social worker? I was one day driving on Santa Clara, a Latino man assalted a white homeless man for no reason. I called the San Jose Police. I followed the man and made him wait for police. The police came talked to him and left. No justice for a homeless guy. I no longer call police for help. It is better to call county agencies to whom the police would have to report their actions. Your level of ignorance about social and mental conditions and other factors is the reason you talk like police. Police officers are black and white thinkers that never consider the gray factors that may exists. It is not the dead user who is going to be investigated and in a suit, so San Jose and Gilroy should invest in better training for their aggression prone officers. They have some elements who are a constant liability for the cities. San Jose Police Department even uses the videos of their aggressive elements to train new officers on what to avoid. The alarming part is that those elements continue to work or retired with big pensions. It is very hard to make police accountable for their negligence and even illegal acts. They have their own internal affairs, the judges, and JEFF ROSEN to protect them. La Doris Cordell was the police auditor? She was the No RECALL head. The San Jose Police were harassing the RECALL signatures collectors outside stores. Who sent them? Now, the videos of their harrasment have been deleted. Again, a big web of corruption of public officials. Oh yes, JEFF ROSEN’ wife is a judge!

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