The attorney for the family of Anthony Alvarez, who was fatally shot by a Chicago police officer following a foot chase in March 2021, said Thursday the police commission rejected the recommendation of the Civil Bureau of the police’s responsibility to fire the officer who shot Alvarez in the high-profile case.
Alvarez, 22, was shot by Chicago police officer Evan Solano after a foot chase in Portage Park. Police Board Member Stephan Block reviewed the COPA investigation and separation recommendation and denied it, according to a press release from Todd Pugh, the Alvarez family’s attorney.
Block’s decision was based on the fact that the police department did not have an official foot pursuit policy, Pugh said.
“The Alvarez family continues to be in shock over Anthony’s death. They are appalled by Mr. Block’s decision to simply recommend a 20-day suspension of a police officer who COPA says violated numerous policies and guidelines prior to killing Anthony Alvarez,” the statement read. “…Today’s decision not only comes as a blow to the Alvarez family, but it continues the message that encounters with the Chicago Police Department remain potentially deadly.”
Alvarez was shot as he walked away from Solano, who was chasing him and yelling at him to “drop the gun”, video of the shooting released last year showed. Solano fired shots and footage shows Alvarez dropping a gun as he fell to the ground. He was shot in the back and thigh, an autopsy later revealed.
His family filed a lawsuit in February alleging the city is responsible for his death in part because the Chicago Police Department did not have a foot chase policy at the time. The family’s lawsuit states that Alvarez did not threaten the officers or anyone else and that the police had no valid reason to arrest or prosecute him that night.
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His death came just days after another Chicago police officer fatally shot 13-year-old Adam Toledo during a foot chase. The two shootings encouraged protests and prompted the city to implement a foot chase policy.
In April 2021, the Civilian Police Accountability Office had recommended to Chicago police officials that Solano be relieved of his police powers during his investigation, an action that would require the officer to give up his badge and to his weapon for professional purposes while assigned to paid office work. He was stripped of his police powers in June 2021. COPA concluded its investigation into the Alvarez shooting in January.
In March, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx announced that her office would not pursue criminal charges against officers involved in the Alvarez and Toledo shootings. Foxx told a news conference that prosecutors determined the two officers reasonably believed they were in danger when they opened fire. Toledo and Alvarez carried guns the nights they were shot.
The police department released its final version of a foot chase policy in June, which had been in the works for more than a year since the Alvarez and Toledo shootings.
The policy states that officers can only engage in a foot pursuit if “there is a valid law enforcement need to detain the person” that outweighs the dangers of the pursuit. Officers should also not start a pursuit or stop one for various reasons, such as if the officer is injured or a third party is injured and requires immediate medical attention; if the agent does not know their current location; if the officer loses his radio or firearm; and more. The policy also states that if an officer is alone, they should not start or continue a pursuit.
All officers will receive online training on the new policy, and it will also be incorporated into the department’s 40 hours of mandatory in-person training, according to police chiefs. Robert Boik, CPD’s executive director of constitutional policing and reform, said the policy will not officially come into effect until all officers have been trained, which will likely be by the end of the summer.