Anthony Alvarez

What Led to Anthony Alvarez Police Shooting? Questions Remain After Video Released

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Chicago's police oversight agency on Wednesday released several videos related to the investigation into the fatal police shooting of Anthony Alvarez last month in the city's Portage Park neighborhood.

While the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, the agency investigating the shooting, released body-camera footage, surveillance videos, 911 calls and incident reports, several questions remain on what led to the shooting - questions that Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Police Supt. David Brown both declined to answer Wednesday.

Police fatally shot 22-year-old Alvarez in the early morning hours of March 31. At the time, police said the incident took place at around 12:18 a.m. in the 3500 block of North Laramie Avenue, where officers were "engaged in a foot pursuit."

Police said that during the pursuit, the person - later identified as Alvarez - "produced a handgun which led to a confrontation" in the 5200 block of West Eddy Street and an officer opened fire, striking him. Alvarez was taken to Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center where he was later pronounced dead, officials said.

Footage from the body camera worn by the officer who fired the fatal shots, released Wednesday, shows the officer exiting his vehicle and sprinting past a home and into an alley with another officer.

The video shows the officer, identified in reports released Wednesday as Evan Solano, exit the alley and follow Alvarez as he turns again onto a residential street. About 2 minutes and 12 seconds into the footage, Solano can be heard yelling, "Hey! Drop the gun, drop the gun" as he draws closer to Alvarez and then immediately fires what sounds like five shots.

Surveillance video from outside the home where Alvarez was shot appeared to show him stumble and fall as he rounded the corner from the alley to the street. In the seconds after, the video shows Alvarez appears to have a gun in his right hand just before the officer opened fire. The gun can be seen falling out of Alvarez's hand near the steps of a home as he was shot.

COPA said in a statement on the video release that officers "attempted to stop and speak with Mr. Anthony Alvarez - an individual familiar to the officers" and that he "fled as officers approached, leading to a foot pursuit by the officers."

COPA did not go into further details on the narrative of what happened leading up to the shooting. Surveillance videos taken from multiple angles show Alvarez before the shooting, walking through a gas station parking lot when a police SUV turns on its lights and begins to follow him.

Alvarez can be seen on the surveillance footage appearing to drop a bag as he runs from the vehicle.

When asked about the video at an unrelated news conference ahead of the release Wednesday, Lightfoot demurred but mentioned a "minor traffic offense" she alleged led to the shooting.

"I won't and don't comment on ongoing investigations. Not only is there an investigation by COPA, but as is protocol this matter was referred to the State's Attorney's Office for evaluation. But I will say this. I will say this: We can't live in a world where a minor traffic offense results in someone being shot and killed," Lightfoot said. "That's not acceptable to me and it shouldn't be acceptable to anyone."

She added that the Chicago Police Department is "making progress" on the push she made to revise the department's foot pursuit policies after the fatal police shootings of both Alvarez and 13-year-old Adam Toledo.

"And 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 members of the public," Lightfoot said.

"But it is unacceptable that a minor traffic offense resulted in death," she continued. "Now, I don't want to get ahead of that. There's going to be a lot that will be said, the video will come out. I urge everyone to look at both the raw footage at real speed, but also to look at the frame-by-frame, which will also be available."

"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," Lightfoot said. "Nonetheless, a traffic accident, traffic incident should not result in the death of anyone. So, we have more work to do, to be sure."

In a news conference immediately after the footage was released, Brown declined to answer several questions about the shooting, citing his need to be independent as the person who will receive and make a determination on COPA's recommendation for any potential discipline for the officer.

When asked why the officers attempted to stop Alvarez, Brown said, "That will be revealed with COPA's investigation."

When asked about Lightfoot's comments, Brown again pointed to his need to remain independent.

"So I'm the final decider on COPA's investigation, the mayor is not, so I have to stay non-opinionated on facts until I get that complete investigation," Brown said. "It's really important for the independence, I think the transparency to the public, you wouldn't want the police department swaying evidence before it's completed in this investigation."

Brown was also asked about other materials not released Wednesday detailing when led to the shooting, at which point he said the officers' statements were given to COPA, not CPD, and that everything would be forwarded to him once the investigation is complete.

COPA said Wednesday it had recommended that the officer who fatally shot Alvarez be relieved of his police powers pending the investigation into the shooting - a recommendation Brown said he was not aware of.

The officer was placed on administrative duties for 30 days immediately after the shooting in accordance with Chicago Police Department protocol.

Per city policy, once COPA concludes its investigation, it will send a final recommendation on any potential discipline for Solano to Brown, who then has 90 days to decide if he agrees or disagrees with the agency's recommendation.

Brown said Wednesday that his decision then goes to the Chicago Police Board for a final determination.

Alvarez's family viewed the video Tuesday at COPA's headquarters. Minutes after seeing the footage, a family member translated his mother Veronica Alvarez's reaction.

"I want more answers. The videos I saw don’t explain what I saw in the morgue," she said. "I want to know why they were running after him. To this day I have no answers."

Todd Pugh, an attorney for the Alvarez family, said the footage they saw Tuesday left them with "more questions than answers."

"As his mother indicated already, it has really left us with more questions than answers, but I know what I saw. I saw Chicago police officers shoot their son as he ran away from them," Pugh said.

The video was released as Chicago is still reeling from the fatal police shooting of Adam Toledo, which occurred during a foot pursuit in the Little Village neighborhood two days before police killed Alvarez.

COPA released body-camera footage of an officer fatally shooting Adam, as well as other materials related to the investigation, on April 15.

Lightfoot and attorneys for Alvarez's family said in a joint statement Wednesday morning that the release of the videos would begin the family's "long process of healing" and asked that anyone expressing themselves after the release "do so peacefully."

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