Video released Wednesday morning shows a Chicago police officer fatally shoot Anthony Alvarez as he ran from police with a gun in his hand in the Portage Park neighborhood.
A Chicago police officer yells “Drop the gun! Drop the gun!” before firing five shots from close range, according to the police bodycam video released by the city’s Civilian Office of Police Accountability, which investigates police shootings.
Anthony Alvarez, 22, collapses onto the front sidewalk of a home on the 5200 block of West Eddy Street in the early-morning hours of March 31.
A gun can be seen in Alvarez’s right hand in the footage captured by the body camera of the officer who pulled the trigger.
A camera mounted to the home feet from where Alvarez collapsed shows a gun fall from his hand as he fell to the pavement.
“Why you shooting me?” Alvarez asks the officer.
“You had a gun,” said the officer, who then tells his partner to place handcuffs on Alvarez.
“No, I’m going to render aid,” his partner says before applying a tourniquet and administering chest compressions.
The video doesn’t show Alvarez pointing a gun at the officers in pursuit.
Alvarez was wounded twice, once in the right side of his back with an exit wound in the upper right chest, and once in his right thigh, according to a police document released Wednesday. Alvarez was pronounced dead at Illinois Masonic Medical Center.
The Chicago Police Department and COPA said Alvarez ran off as tactical officers approached him at a gas station, leading to a foot chase. What the officers wanted from Alvarez wasn’t disclosed.
However, at an unrelated news conference before the video was released, Mayor Lori Lightfoot referred to it as “a minor traffic offense,” saying: “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 shouldn’t be acceptable to anyone.”
COPA said it has recommended the officer who shot Alvarez be relieved of police powers during the investigation.
Police Supt. David Brown said Wednesday at a news conference following the release of the video that he hadn’t been notified of the COPA recommendation.
Brown will have 90 days to decide whether he agrees or disagrees with the recommendation, at which time he must share his decision with the police board, which will ultimately decide the officers fate.
Brown declined to share additional details of the shooting, what led to it or his thoughts on it, saying it was important he refrain from sharing his opinion so COPA could conduct a “clean and clear” investigation.
The 30-year-old officer who fired the fatal shots joined the force in 2015, according to the Invisible Institute, which tracks police discipline. The Institute’s website says the officer was accused of misconduct in a South Side traffic stop in 2017, but the case was closed without being sustained. The Sun-Times isn’t naming him because he isn’t officially accused of wrongdoing.
Lightfoot and attorneys representing the Alvarez family issued a joint statement Wednesday morning that called for peace.
“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,” the statement said.
“The Alvarez family … 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,” the statement said.
“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. … We ask that all continue to respect the Alvarez family’s right to privacy as they grieve during this incredibly painful time.”
Alvarez’s family saw the video footage Tuesday.
“I want more answers, the videos I saw do not explain what I saw in the morgue,” Veronica Alvarez, Anthony’s mother, told Fox32 Chicago in Spanish on Tuesday. “I want to know why they were chasing him. As of now, I don’t have answers.”
Todd Pugh, an attorney for the family, told the station that “it was incredibly difficult, it was an absolutely chilling scene, and as his mother indicated already, it has left us with more questions than answers.
“But I know what I saw, and I saw Chicago police officers shoot their son as he ran away from them,” Pugh said.
Ald. George Cardenas (12th), former chairman of the City Council’s Hispanic Caucus, called the video a “tough one” to watch and the shooting of Alvarez difficult to justify.
“The fact that this young man is walking with something in his hands. … As far as I could see, he didn’t rob anybody. Then, all of the sudden, the cop comes in pretty aggressive,” Cardenas said.
“The guy didn’t look like he was a threat to the officer. … It appears he had a gun, but he was obviously not facing the officer. That’s not where it should end,” said Cardenas, whose ward includes the location where 13-year-old Adam Toledo was shot by Chicago police last month.
“If he faces the officer with the gun, then maybe that’s a reason to kind of react. … But if he’s not facing you, you’ve got to give him time to … get on his knees, put his hands behind his back. The whole thing was, `Drop the gun. Drop the gun.’ Then, pow, pow, pow. That’s a sequence that is very fast for somebody who is running and has adrenaline. The situation is not good.”
Cardenas noted that Illinois’ concealed carry law “allows you to carry a gun, so a lot of people are gonna have guns in their hands. That’s not a reason to shoot anybody.”
“If we keep this up, we’re gonna go broke” as a city, Cardenas said, in a clear reference to a stream of multi-million settlements stemming from police-involved shootings.
“We’ve got to reform this stuff. We’ve got to come up with a way to handle and de-escalate. Wait ’til more backup arrives. If he’s a threat to you, then I understand. You’ve got to protect yourself. But that has to be beyond a reasonable doubt. If he faces you with a gun, I understand why you’ve got to shoot him. But that was not the case here.”
Ald. Ariel Reboyras (30th), whose ward includes the 5200-block of West Eddy, where the Alvarez shooting occurred, could not be reached for comment.
Neighboring Ald. Felix Cardona Jr. (31st) urged COPA to complete its investigation of the Alvarez shooting post-haste.
“The family needs answers. The city needs answers,” Cardona said.
Cardona was non-committal on whether he considers the Alvarez shooting justified or whether it appears to him that the young man was shot in the back.
“We’re gonna have different camera angles. You’re gonna have different interpretations and different ways of how people see this, depending on the lens,” the alderman said.
The shooting happened two days after an officer shot and killed Toledo on March 29 in Little Village. Toledo’s killing also happened during a foot chase, prompting Lightfoot to direct CPD to draft a new foot pursuit policy.
“For the second time in weeks, the people of Chicago are presented with video footage of a young Latino man being shot and killed by police during a foot pursuit. Again, a family suffers as the Alvarez family experiences the grief and pain of witnessing the last moments of a loved one,” Colleen Connell, executive director of ACLU of Illinois, said in a prepared statement.
“The lack of meaningful police reform in Chicago is not only costing the city lives, but also taking a psychological toll on communities of color. The city must abandon the current snail’s pace of police reform and become serious about making real changes that serve all neighborhoods.”
Ald. Michael Rodriguez (22nd), who represents the ward where the Toledo family lives, called the Alvarez video “gut-wrenching.”
“I’m sick of watching these videos,” Rodriquez said. “I saw a guy with a gun running from police get shot. A guy running away from a police officer. These foot chases are one of the glaring omissions of execution by our police department.”
After talking to “a couple of people inside” CPD, Rodriguez said, “there’s some questions whether there was probable cause for the pursuit” of Alvarez. “I can’t say more because I don’t know more.”
WARNING: GRAPHIC VIDEO
The mayor said Wednesday that CPD “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 it’s dangerous for members of the public.”
Lightfoot urged everyone to “look at both the raw footage” of the Alvarez shooting “at real speed” as well as the “frame-by-frame” of what happened.
“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,” said Lightfoot, a former Police Board president.
“Nonetheless … a traffic incident … should not result in the death of anyone. So we have more work to do to be sure.”
Lightfoot said she hopes to have that new foot chase policy ready for public review sometime next month.
But, she said, it’s got to be done “the right way” with plenty of input.
“What I’ve encouraged the department to do is to make sure they’re engaging on the front-end with key stakeholders, not the least of which is line police officers who are gonna be responsible for implementing whatever the new policy is. We have to have their voices, as well as community voices, in those discussions … and reflected in the new policy,” the mayor said.
“It’s really important that we get it right,” Brown said of the policy.
Contributing: David Struett