The officers involved in two highly polarizing fatal shootings in Chicago - the killings of 13-year-old Adam Toledo and 22-year-old Anthony Alvarez - will not face charges, Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx announced Tuesday.
The decision comes nearly one year after both incidents rocked the city almost simultaneously.
"This is a somber announcement. There are no winners in this very tragic situation," Chicago's top prosecutor said during a press conference.
Toledo was shot and killed by a Chicago police officer following a foot pursuit in late March of 2021 in the city's Little Village neighborhood. Two days later, Alvarez was chased through Chicago's Portage Park neighborhood before being shot and killed by a CPD officer on March 31, 2021.
Both deaths, which were captured on body camera and surveillance footage, sparked outrage and calls from Latino leaders for a moratorium on police foot pursuits. It also prompted mass protests as hundreds of people marched in the city calling for justice.
"When we look at these cases, we must now also look at the law as it applies," Foxx said. "Under Illinois law, an officer is justified in using force likely to cause death or great bodily harm when he reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or to others."
Foxx's office had faced scrutiny over its handling of the Toledo case shortly after it happened when an attorney who worked under her implied in court the 13-year-old was holding a gun when a police officer fatally shot him. She later apologized and acknowledged that neither she nor anyone in her office tried to clear up the matter until right before video was released showing that wasn't actually the case.
Body camera footage of Toledo's shooting showed the teen running from a Chicago police officer down a Little Village alley on March 29. Toledo starts to turn toward the officer, and is in the process of putting his hands up when the officer fires his weapon once, striking the teen in the chest.
Body camera video showed that Toledo either dropped or tossed the gun less than a second before Officer Eric Stillman shot and killed him.
Foxx cited during her press conference that case law "recognizes that police officers are often forced to make split second decisions and judgements in circumstances that are tense, uncertain and rapidly evolving."
In Toledo's case, Foxx noted, the timing from when Toledo dropped a gun and began to raise his hands was "within one second."
"Officer Stillman reacted to the perceived threat presented by Adam Toledo who he believed at the time was turning toward him to shoot him," Foxx said.
"Based on the facts, the evidence and the law, we've concluded that there was no evidence to prove that Officer [Eric] Stillman acted with criminal intent," she added. "Officer Stillman fired only one shot."
In Alvarez's case, Foxx noted again that "an officer is justified in using force likely to cause death or great bodily harm when he reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself, or such other person."
The incident started when Alvarez was at a gas station in the 3500 block of North Laramie Avenue and a police vehicle drove in front of him. It remains unclear why the officers initially approached Alvarez, but a foot chase followed, as seen on video from police-worn body cameras.
A fleeing Alvarez collapsed onto the front sidewalk of a home on the 5200 block of West Eddy Street. Footage captured by Solano’s body camera shows a gun in Alvarez’s right hand but never shows Alvarez pointing the gun toward officers.
"After a thorough review, the office has concluded that the evidence in this case is insufficient to support criminal charges against police Officer Evan Solano," Foxx said Tuesday. "As with the case of Adam Toledo, the Illinois State Appellate prosecutors have reviewed this case and have concurred with our decision that no criminal charges are appropriate."
A federal civil rights lawsuit has been filed against the city, claiming its failure to implement a foot-pursuit policy for the Chicago Police Department was the driving force behind the fatal shooting.
Foxx acknowledged in her announcement that "while the evidence is insufficient to support criminal charges, it is important to highlight that the officers themselves created the conditions which the use of deadly force became necessary."
"First, it was unnecessary for the officers to stop and engage with Mr. Alvarez, who was walking through a gas station parking lot, holding food and drink," she said. "He was not committing any crimes that were readily apparent to the officers at the time."
She added that she has "deep, deep concerns about the foot pursuit policy in both of these cases but, in particular, what happened with Mr. Alvarez."
Foxx noted the officer who shot Alvarez "may have committed several foot pursuit policy violations during his foot chase of Mr. Alvarez, such as rounding corners blind without first slowing to assess any danger and not creating distance or waiting for his partner upon observing Mr. Alvarez with the firearm."
But despite the policy concerns, she said "the evidence in this case does not support the filing of criminal charges and the state would be unable to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that officers somehow committed the offense of first-degree murder."
Foxx said she met with the families of both Toledo and Alvarez prior to her announcement, who were "heartbroken."