For the second time in less than two weeks, Chicago officials have released footage showing police officers fatally shooting a young Latino during a foot chase. And, once again, the city’s residents and community leaders are grieving a death at the hands of cops.
A police body camera video released Wednesday shows an officer killing Anthony Alvarez, 22, who had a gun in his hand and was running away from the cop when the shots rang out near his home in the Portage Park neighborhood on March 31, two days after an officer shot Adam Toledo, 13, in the Little Village neighborhood.
“It makes me feel a little helpless,” said Citlali Pérez, 19, a DePaul University student activist who grew up in the Back of the Yards neighborhood. “It’s like my family and friends and I are not safe and anything could happen — like we’re being targeted and the people who are in charge won’t be moved to do what needs to be done.”
Pérez said what needs to be done is to defund the police.
Others said the Alvarez footage should prompt less drastic steps.
“Chicago residents deserve meaningful changes to policing,” ACLU of Illinois executive director Colleen Connell said in a statement. “They deserve a new policy on foot pursuits that is informed by community voices and driven by community needs — and one that actually results in changes in how police officers treat human beings.”
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Police Superintendent David Brown are vowing to create a policy on when and how police officers are allowed to chase people on foot. Their promises come more than four years since a report by the U.S. Department of Justice found that the lack of a CPD foot-pursuit policy endangered officers and the public.
After the Alvarez shooting, a police statement said he “produced a handgun” while being chased by officers, “which led to a confrontation with police.”
U.S. Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García (D-Chicago) on Wednesday likened that characterization to the initial police version of Adam Toledo’s killing.
“Like in Adam’s case, officials tried to downplay Anthony’s killing by saying it began as a confrontation,” García said. “Like in Adam’s case, that was a lie. The footage COPA released today reveals police appear to have shot Anthony in the back while he was running away.”
But other Chicagoans watched the same footage and concluded the shooting was justified. Ald. Nicholas Sposato (38th), whose ward is near the shooting scene, said Lightfoot’s office summoned him and other Northwest Side aldermen to City Hall to view the video Wednesday morning shortly before its public release.
“It’s always tragic when anybody loses their life, let alone a young person,” Sposato said. “But when you don’t cooperate with the police and you’re running around with a gun, bad things happen.”
Sposato said it was significant that both officers who chased Alvarez are Latino.
“If it involved a white officer and a black suspect, then the whole city is going to get destroyed,” Sposato said. “But there were two Hispanic officers and the individual was Hispanic. It shouldn’t mean anything but it sure does seem to mean everything in the world now.”
Others avoided watching the video. Benji Hart, a teacher, writer and artist in the Rogers Park neighborhood, said the footage would be traumatizing and distracting.
“So much of the debating and interrogating of individual videos distracts us from the larger question: Why aren’t we actually investing in young people’s lives in ways that prevent this violence from happening in the first place?” Hart said.