by Chris Tye, Charlie De Mar, and Todd Feurer
CHICAGO (CBS) — Police body camera video released on Wednesday shows an officer fatally shooting 22-year-old Anthony Alvarez as he was running away during a foot pursuit last month, holding a handgun in his right hand.
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Before the video was released, Mayor Lori Lightfoot suggested the chase and shooting stemmed from a simple traffic violation, though she did not provide any details.
The Civilian Office of Police Accountability released several videos from the fatal police shooting on March 31, including body camera video from two officers, security camera video from a gas station where the chase started, and doorbell camera video from a home near the yard where Alvarez was shot.
In a statement, COPA said CPD tactical officers tried to stop and speak to Alvarez, describing him as “an individual familiar to the officers,” when Alvarez ran off, leading to a foot chase.
“During the brief foot pursuit, officers made verbal commands to Mr. Alvarez to drop the weapon. A Chicago police officer fired his weapon multiple times, fatally injuring Mr. Alvarez,” COPA said in a statement.
COPA also recommended the officer who shot Alvarez be relieved of his police powers during the investigation. The officer, 30-year-old Evan Solano, already has been placed on 30 days of administrative duties, as is standard procedure in a police shooting. He’s been on the force for nearly six years, and according to the Citizens Police Data Project, he has had one closed complaint against him.
He has a total of four complaints against him altogether and 11 use of force reports between 2017 and mid-2020, according to data compiled by the Invisible Institute that tracks police misconduct allegations.
The chase started around 12:20 a.m. on March 31, at a gas station at 5201 W. Addison St. in Portage Park. CBS 2’s Chris Tye reported surveillance video shows Alvarez run around the corner and into a nearby alley as officers approached him.
Body camera video then shows Alvarez run through two front yards in the 5200 block of West Eddy Street, near Alvarez’s home, as an officer shouts, “Hey drop the gun, drop the gun,” just before opening fire. The video shows Alvarez with a cell phone in his left hand and a gun in his right hand just seconds before the shooting.
Alvarez’s back was facing the officer at the moment he was shot, but a gun was visible in his right hand, moving from right to left.
In doorbell camera video from a nearby house, the gun Alvarez was holding appears to fly out of his hand after he was shot, landing behind a small staircase in the yard.
After the officer shot Alvarez, video shows him moaning on the ground, asking “Why are you shooting me?”
“You had a gun,” the officer responded.
In the minutes that follow, Solano can be seen performing chest compressions on Alvarez, and using Alvarez’s belt as a tourniquet to try to save him.
“Stay with me man, stay with me,” an officer can be heard telling Alvarez.
Alvarez would later be pronounced dead at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center.
Earlier, during the chase, the shooting officer’s hand briefly covered his body camera. Police said at that point, the officer was trying to use his radio, and was not trying to block the camera.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Alvarez’s attorneys released a joint statement Wednesday morning ahead of the release of the videos, urging any protests to remain peaceful:
“The Alvarez family, through counsel, Todd Pugh, Tania Dimitrova, and Steven Fine, has advised that they believe that the release of these videos will be the beginning of a long process of healing for the family, and for all those who knew and loved Anthony.”
“Both parties are acutely aware of the range of emotions that will accompany the release of these materials, and we collectively issue this statement and ask that those who wish to express themselves do so peacefully and with respect for our communities and the residents of Chicago.”
“COPA’s investigation is ongoing, and both parties expect and have the utmost confidence that officials will determine the complete and unbiased set of facts in this case. This tragic event provides further motivation for the expediency for reform to the City’s foot pursuit policies. We ask that all continue to respect the Alvarez family’s right to privacy as they grieve during this incredibly painful time.”
Later Wednesday morning, Lightfoot suggested the chase and shooting stemmed from a simple traffic violation.
“We can’t live in a world where a minor traffic offense results in someone being shot and killed. That’s not acceptable to me, and it shouldn’t be acceptable to anyone,” she said. “Again, this shooting involved a foot chase. The department is making progress on my directive to revise the foot chase policy. As I’ve said before, it’s one of the most dangerous activities that officers engage in; dangerous for themselves, dangerous for the person being pursued, and dangerous for the public.”
Mayor Lightfoot gave some clues as to why police were after Alvarez in the first place. Chicago Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara went into greater detail.
“The day before, he had taken off from police in a vehicle,” Catanzara said, “and since we can’t really do vehicle pursuits, they had to let him go. But they absolutely knew he was the driver.”
The mayor urged people who choose to watch the video to look at both raw footage in real speed and frame by frame.
“I understand, having investigated many of these shootings, that officers are in many instances called upon to make split-second decisions, particularly in instances like this one where there’s a gun. Nonetheless, traffic accident, traffic incident should not result in the death of anyone. So we have more work to do, to be sure,” she said.
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Shortly after the video was released, Chicago Police Supt. David Brown said he has reviewed the footage several times, but declined to say whether he believes the officer was justified, citing the ongoing COPA investigation.
“It is really important as superintendent and the final decision maker for Chicago Police Department’s recommendation that goes to the Chicago Police Board, that I withhold opinion, statements of any facts, so that the independence of COPA’s investigation is clean, clear,” Brown said.
The superintendent said, once COPA concludes its investigation, it will forward any disciplinary recommendations to him regarding whether the officer was following CPD policy.
If COPA recommends either a suspension of one year or more or to fire the office, Brown would then have 90 days to either agree or disagree with COPA’s findings.
The Chicago Police Board would make any final decision on a suspension of a year or more, or a recommendation to fire the officer.
Alvarez’s family viewed the video footage Tuesday evening ahead of it’s release to the public.
As CBS 2’s Charlie De Mar reported, the family and their attorney spoke after viewing the body cam video. They did not go into great detail of what they saw, but said one thing is clear – that Chicago Police shot and killed Alvarez as he was running away.
Alvarez’s family was emotional after they watched video and reviewed other evidence showing the 22-year-old getting shot by a Chicago Police officer on Wednesday, March 31. He later died.
“I want more answers,” Alvarez’s mother, Veronica, said through interpreter Isai Adame. “The videos I saw don’t explain what I saw in the morgue.”
Alvarez’s mother, other relatives, and their attorney, Todd Pugh, spent about two hours reviewing evidence inside the COPA offices.
Outside, a handful of people rallied in support of the Alvarez family – and the public release of the video.
“As his mother indicated already, it has really left us with more questions than answers – but I know what I saw, and I saw a Chicago Police officer shoot their son as he ran away from them,” Pugh said.
Police tweeted a photo of what they said was a gun that belonged to Alvarez on the grass.
— Tom Ahern (@TomAhernCPD) March 31, 2021
“It was incredibly difficult,” Pugh said. “It was an absolutely chilling scene.”
“I want justice for Anthony,” Alvarez’s mother added through the interpreter. “I want to know why they were running after him.”
Asked why Alvarez was on the officers’ radar in the first place, police declined to comment, saying that information would have to come from COPA, which is still investigating the shooting.
Alvarez was shot and killed just two days after another Chicago Police officer shot and killed 13-year-old Adam Toledo in Little Village, also during a foot pursuit. Police body camera video shows Adam dropping a gun seconds before the officer shoots him in the chest in an alley.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot has said the CPD foot-chase policy needs to be overhauled, and said she expects a new policy to be available for public comment sometime next month.
“Obviously, I’m anxious to get that done sooner rather than later. As you know, as a candidate back in 2018, I identified foot chases as a significant challenge that couldn’t be put off to another day, but the then-administration agreed to a consent decree which pushed it off for effectively three-plus years,” she said. “So I’m anxious to get a new policy, but we’ve got to do it the right way.”
The mayor said she has urged CPD to engage with officers who will be responsible for implementing the new policy, as well as with community groups, as it crafts a new foot chase policy.
Brown said CPD has sent a draft of its new foot pursuit policy to several focus groups to get feedback from officers, and has developed a plan to seek public comment once it’s released. The department also will send its new policy to the independent monitor overseeing compliance with the court-enforced consent decree mandating CPD reforms.
After the new foot pursuit policy is completed, the department will develop officer training around the new policy.
“We hope to roll out and implement the foot pursuit policy within the next few weeks. We are obviously proceeding with a sense of urgency as it relates to foot pursuit policies, and to highlight obviously the dangers; not only to the officers, gen general public, and the offenders public,” Brown said. “It is really important for us to get it right.”
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In developing the new foot pursuit policy, Brown said CPD has looked at policies from other departments under federal consent decrees to come up with the best practices going forward.