Armed Man Was Running Away When Chicago Police Fatally Shot Him In Portage Park

A screen shot of video footage from the body camera of the officer who shot 22-year-old Anthony Alvarez.
A screen shot of video footage from the body camera of the officer who shot 22-year-old Anthony Alvarez. Civilian Office of Police Accountability
A screen shot of video footage from the body camera of the officer who shot 22-year-old Anthony Alvarez.
A screen shot of video footage from the body camera of the officer who shot 22-year-old Anthony Alvarez. Civilian Office of Police Accountability

Armed Man Was Running Away When Chicago Police Fatally Shot Him In Portage Park

Video released Wednesday from the Chicago police killing of 22-year-old Anthony Alvarez shows Alvarez with a gun in his hand — and his back turned toward the officer — as he ran away from police when he was killed.

Chicago’s Civilian Office of Police Accountability released police body camera video, security footage, radio transmissions and police reports as the agency continues its investigation into the shooting.

Alvarez was shot and killed during a foot chase in the early morning hours of March 31 near Alvarez’s home in Chicago’s Portage Park neighborhood on the Northwest Side.

He was one of two Chicagoans killed by police during foot pursuits in the same week at the end of March. The other was 13-year-old Adam Toledo who was killed two days earlier on March 29 in the Little Village neighborhood.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Police Superintendent David Brown have promised a new policy on when and how police officers engage in foot chases in an effort to avoid violent confrontations. Experts say a foot pursuit policy is desperately needed and could have prevented the fatal police shootings.

A 2017 report by the U.S. Department of Justice found that the lack of a Chicago Police Department foot chase policy endangered officers and the public.

On Wednesday, Brown said the department had developed a draft foot pursuit policy and was soliciting internal feedback from officers. He said the department would soon put it out for public comment.

“We hope to roll out and implement the policy within the next few weeks,” Brown said. “We are obviously proceeding with a sense of urgency.”

The incident that ultimately ended in Alvarez’s death started when police pulled up with their lights flashing as Alvarez was walking in a gas station parking lot at the corner of North Laramie Avenue and West Addison Street. Alvarez immediately took off running, and two officers chased him.

Chief of Detectives Brendan Deenihan said officers pulled up to the gas station because they “recognized” Alvarez. But Deenihan would not say why the officers were seeking Alvarez in the first place, citing the ongoing investigation.

At an unrelated press conference Wednesday, Lightfoot indicated that the chase happened as part of an investigation into a “traffic incident.”

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,” Lightfoot said.

But Brown, in his own press conference, wouldn’t say why officers were pursuing Alvarez, citing the ongoing investigation of the shooting being conducted by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA).

In a statement, COPA spokesman Ephraim Eaddy said the chase happened after “tactical officers attempted to stop and speak with” Alvarez. He described Alvarez as “an individual familiar to the officers.”

Body camera video shows officers chasing Alvarez through an alley and then out onto West Eddy Street. As he turned onto the side street, Alvarez stumbled two times and the officer caught up to him in the front yard of a home.

The shooting officer, who police records identify as Officer Evan Solano, can be heard on the video yelling “drop the gun” two times before firing.

Police video and footage from a security camera on the front of a nearby house show Alvarez weaving through the front yard, but he never turned toward the officer before the shots were fired.

At a media event Wednesday morning, Deenihan showed reporters the videos, including a composite video put together by CPD that included a slow-motion version of the shooting, with arrows indicating the location of the gun in Alvarez’s hand.

A photo of a gun on the ground.
A photo of the firearm police say was recovered at the scene of Chicago police killing of Anthony Alvarez on March 31, 2021. Chicago Police Department

“There is a cell phone in the left hand and a gun in the right hand,” Deenihan said while going through the video.

The videos show that, after he was shot, the gun fell out of Alvarez’s hand and landed near him on the grass.

“Why you shooting me?” Alvarez asked the officer, while wailing in pain.

“You had a gun!” Solano replied.

After calling for assistance over the radio, Solano attempted to handcuff Alvarez on the ground. However, his partner pleaded with him not to.

“No, I’m going to render aid,” Solano’s partner can be heard saying on the video.

Later the partner tells Alvarez to “stay with me dude” and “stop moving, I’m trying to help you.” The officers can be seen trying to apply a tourniquet to a wound in Alvarez’s leg and doing chest compressions while they wait for the ambulance.

Solano is Hispanic. He is 29 years old and joined the Chicago police force in June 2015, according to police records. Information from the Invisible Institute, which maintains a database of Chicago police complaints, indicates that Solano has had four complaints made against him during his career with CPD. None of those complaints have been sustained. The non-profit journalism organization also found that Solano has reported using some kind of force 11 times during his time as a Chicago cop, although only three of those instances involved any alleged injury to the subject.

Immediately following the March 31 shooting, police said Alvarez “produced a handgun” while being chased by officers, “which led to a confrontation with police in the 5200 block of W. Eddy.” Police said a gun was recovered following the shooting. Department records indicate that the gun was not registered and had a “laser attachment.”

The Cook County medical examiner’s office ruled Alvarez’s death a homicide caused by multiple gunshot wounds. Police records also show Alvarez was shot once in the back and once in the thigh.

Alvarez, 22, was the father of a 2-year-old girl, according to the Chicago Tribune. Block Club Chicago reported that Alvarez’s family last saw him alive about three hours before he was shot, when he stopped by his parents’ home in Portage Park to show off his new Jeep. The family has said it wants to know why officers chased Alvarez in the first place.

Alvarez’s family viewed the videos Tuesday.

The family released a statement Wednesday saying 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, issued in conjunction with Lightfoot’s office, said the family is “acutely aware of the range of emotions that will accompany the release of these materials, and we … ask that those who wish to express themselves do so peacefully and with respect for our communities and the residents of Chicago.”

In a statement, the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois lamented that “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.

“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 statement reads. “The city must abandon the current snail’s pace of police reform and become serious about making real changes that serve all neighborhoods.”

Brown on Wednesday said he had viewed video of the shooting weeks ago and several times since, but he declined to say much about it, saying he didn’t want to get in the way of the investigation by COPA.

Brown said the shooting officer was taken off the streets and placed on administrative duty for at least 30 days in keeping with policy. COPA has recommended the officer be relieved of his police powers throughout its investigation.

Patrick Smith is a reporter on WBEZ’s Criminal Justice Desk. Follow him @pksmid. Email him at psmith@wbez.org.