A 22-year-old Chicago man who was fleeing from police had his back turned and appeared to be holding a gun when an officer fatally shot him last month, a video released of the incident shows.
Nearly two weeks after releasing video of the fatal police shooting of 13-year-old Adam Toledo, the city’s independent police review board released footage and other investigation materials pertaining to the March 31 killing of Anthony Alvarez.
Unlike in the Toledo case, the board recommended that the officer who shot Alvarez be stripped of his police powers until its investigation is finished – a rare move this early in one of its investigations.
The most recent incident has come amid heightened public scrutiny of US policing that has followed months of protests sparked, in part, by the police killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man in Minneapolis. Former officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of second and third-degree murder and manslaughter for Floyd’s killing last week.
As she did before the Toledo footage was made public, Mayor Lori Lightfoot called on the public to remain calm and allow the review board – the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) – to complete its investigation into the killing of Alvarez, who, like Toledo, was Latino.
“The 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 Wednesday statement said.
The head of the Chicago police union did the same, pleading in a video statement for the public to keep an open mind when watching the footage.
Videos released by the review board and the police department show the officer chasing Alvarez.
When Alvarez reaches a lawn in front of a house, the officer can be heard shouting, “Drop the gun! Drop the gun!” before he opens fire. Alvarez drops what police say is a gun after five shots ring out and he falls to the ground.
As Alvarez lays there, he asks, “Why you shooting me?” to which the officer responds, “You had a gun.”
The officer later tells other officers that Alvarez was armed and points to a gun on the ground.
In the roughly 15 seconds in which Alvarez remains lucid after being shot and with blood quickly soaking his clothes, he can be heard saying “I’m gonna die” as he struggles to look at his cellphone.
‘Relieved of police powers’
Alvarez’s family was provided with the video on Tuesday. Todd Pugh, a lawyer for the family, said he watched the video, “And I saw a Chicago police officer shoot their son as he ran away from them.”
Although city and police officials did not release details about the officer who shot Alvarez, a police report that COPA posted along with the video identified him as 29-year-old Evan Solano, a six-year veteran of the force.
While the officer in the shooting of Toledo was put on paid administrative leave, as routinely happens after police shootings, COPA made a point of recommending that Solano “be relieved of police powers during the pendency of this investigation”.
COPA spokesman Ephraim Eaddy would not explain why the office recommended that Solano be stripped of his police powers already, but he conceded that it rarely makes such a recommendation so early in an investigation.
Police and city officials haven’t said why officers were pursuing Alvarez, but during a news conference before the video was released, Lightfoot referred to a traffic offense.
“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.”
The head of the police union, John Catanzara, said in his video statement that the foot chase that led to Alvarez’s death stemmed from an incident the day before in which Alvarez fled from police in a vehicle. The officer who shot Alvarez spotted him the next day and chased him on foot.
“There is nothing wrong with this shooting just because the bullet struck the offender from behind,” Catanzara said in a video recorded statement.
The release of the Alvarez video followed a pattern for a police department that has been dogged for decades by its reputation for brutality, misconduct and racism.
Earlier this month, COPA released footage of the March 29 shooting of Toledo.
It showed a white officer shoot Toledo as he turned toward the officer raising his empty hands less than a second after the teen tossed aside or dropped a handgun.