There is heartbreak for a San Jose family who says their loved one was shot and killed by police in Gilroy. The deadly encounter happened Monday evening at an apartment building on Filbro Drive, just down the road from Gilroy High School.
The officer has been placed on paid administrative leave, and the District Attorney’s Office will also become involved, which is common in cases like these. However, family members are devastated, and still trying to come to terms with what happened.
Gilroy Police Capt. Joseph Deras explained it was “a very, very quick and dynamic situation, a very fluid situation for the officer. When he’s confronted with a lethal encounter, he needs to make a decision very, very rapidly, where his life is depending on the decision he makes.”
That decision involved a Gilroy police officer opening fire at a suspect at around 7 p.m. Monday, after responding to a domestic violence call.
A neighbor reported hearing commotion coming from the second floor. Police say upon arrival, the responding officer saw a man pulling on a woman’s hair outside of the unit and told him to come down to the first level. Things got heated after a quick exchange.
“The suspect made very deliberate moves, on more than one occasion, to indicate that he did have a weapon, or was armed, or was preparing to arm himself,” Deras said.
Police say the suspect, identified by family members as 19-year-old Hector Alvarez of San Jose, then charged at the responding officer.
“This girl was yelling and screaming, and then I heard three shots… one, two, three,” recalled neighbor Bernadette Barrera. “And then she started yelling, ‘What did you do that for? [Why did] you do that? You didn’t have to do that! He can’t breathe. He’s choking. Help him!'”
Alvarez died at the scene of the shooting. Family members say he was there to see his estranged girlfriend, and their 7-month-old baby girl. Gilroy police would not confirm whether or not the suspect indeed had a weapon, saying the case is still under investigation. Neighbors remain stunned by what happened.
The apartment manager says two women just moved in to the upstairs unit two weeks ago, but neighbors say they’ve seen young men coming and going as well. Their downstairs neighbor, Eduardo Martinez, his wife and twin 11-year-old daughters were not home at the time of the shooting. Alvarez died just steps from their front door.
“There’s blood on the floor. I’m surprised there’s a lot of blood. I don’t want my daughters to see that,” Martinez said.
Martinez also discovered a bullet hole through the front of his apartment, another in his living room wall, and a big hole in his bedroom wall where police dug for evidence. An errant shot, but thankfully, no innocent bystanders.
“I asked the officer if the bullet went all the way through and he said yes. And the first thing I thought about is well, my daughters are normally here watching TV at that time,” said Martinez.
Gilroy police officers are in fact issued body worn cameras, but would not say whether the camera on the responding officer was in operation.