COPA calls for Chicago police officer's dismissal in shooting of Anthony Alvarez
CHICAGO - The civilian agency that oversees the Chicago Police Department took a parting shot at the city’s top cop this week as it released a final report on the fatal police shooting of Anthony Alvarez during a foot chase last year.
The Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) had recommended that the officer who fired the shots, Evan Solano, be dismissed because he was not justified in shooting Alvarez in the back, even though Alvarez was running away with a gun in his hand.
Supt. David Brown instead decided to suspend Solano for 20 days, a move backed by the Chicago Police Board last month.
In releasing its final report, COPA reiterated that "the preponderance of the evidence in this case shows that Mr. Alvarez was attempting to flee without the use of force and does not support that his actions were likely to cause death or great bodily harm.
"COPA firmly stands by our investigation, findings and recommendation of discipline," it added.
Alvarez’s death came just two days after 13-year-old Adam Toledo was fatally shot by Chicago Police Officer Eric Stillman during another foot chase in Little Village.
The shootings prompted outrage and pushed department leaders to develop its first foot pursuit policy that is just now taking full effect. Despite the outcry, State’s Attorney Kim Foxx announced in March that her office found no evidence to support criminal charges against officers in either shooting.
In the Alvarez case, Solano fired five shots as he pursued the 22-year-old through the Portage Park neighborhood early on March 31, 2021, striking him in the back and thigh after he ignored orders to drop a handgun and appeared to turn his body.
COPA’s final report, near 50 pages long, details witness accounts and video of the incident but most of the facts have already been released to the public.
The Jefferson Park District officers said they recognized Alvarez from a domestic call with the mother of his child in April 2020 in which Solano detained Alvarez during a foot pursuit.
On March 29, 2021 they crossed paths again when Alvarez was spotted driving without a front license plate. Alvarez and his partner chose not to pursue him.
Roughly 24 hours later, the officers encountered Alvarez again near a gas station at Addison Street and Laramie Avenue. They began chasing him and Solano saw Alvarez holding a gun in the 5200 block of West Eddy Street and ordered him to drop it. Then Solano opened fire.
"Why are you shooting me?" Alvarez said on body-worn camera after being struck.
"You had a gun!" Solano responded.
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Solano told COPA investigators he opened fire after Alvarez looked over his shoulder, fearing Alvarez was turning around to shoot him and his partner. Surveillance footage showed Alvarez was holding a gun in front of him when the shots rang out.
COPA disputed Solano’s contention that the officer was in fear for his life when he fired at Alvarez.
"COPA has determined Officer Solano’s use of deadly force against [Alvarez] on March 31, 2021 to be without justification," it concluded in the report.
That’s not how a police board member saw it when the board backed suspension over dismissal last month.
Board member Steven Block wrote in a 31-page ruling that Solano’s use of force was "objectively reasonable, necessary, and proportional in order to ensure his own safety and the safety of his partner."