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Bid to fire officer in Anthony Alvarez case rejected in Police Board review

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The family attorney of Anthony Alvarez, who was fatally shot by a Chicago police officer following a foot chase in March 2021, said Thursday that the Police Board denied the Civilian Office of Police Accountability’s recommendation to fire the officer who shot Alvarez in the high-profile case.

Alvarez, 22, was fatally shot by Chicago police Officer Evan Solano after a foot chase in Portage Park. Police Board member Steven Block reviewed COPA’s investigation and recommendation of separation and denied it, according to a news release by Todd Pugh, the Alvarez family attorney.

Block’s decision was based on the Chicago Police Department not having a formal foot pursuit policy, Pugh said.

“The Alvarez family continues to reel from Anthony’s death. They are appalled by Mr. Block’s decision to merely recommend a 20-day suspension of a police officer who COPA determined violated numerous policies and directives before killing Anthony Alvarez,” the statement read. “ … Today’s decision is not only a gut-punch to the Alvarez family, but it perpetuates the message that encounters with the Chicago Police Department remain potentially lethal.”

Alvarez was shot while moving away from Solano, who was pursuing him and yelling at him to “drop the gun,” a video of the shooting released last year showed. Solano fired shots, and footage shows Alvarez drop a pistol as he fell to the ground. He was shot in the back and thigh, an autopsy later revealed.

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His family filed a lawsuit in February alleging the city bears responsibility for his death partly because the Chicago Police Department did not have a policy on foot pursuits at the time. The family’s lawsuit states that Alvarez did not threaten the officers or anyone else, and police had no valid reason to stop him or chase him that night.

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His death came just days after a different Chicago police officer fatally shot 13-year-old Adam Toledo during a foot chase. The two shootings prompted protests and for the city to implement a policy on foot pursuits. In April 2021, Civilian Office of Police Accountability had recommended to Chicago police officials that Solano be relieved of his police powers during its investigation, an action that would require the officer to forfeit his badge and gun for work purposes while assigned to paid desk duty. He was stripped of his police powers in June 2021. COPA concluded its investigation on the Alvarez shooting in January.

In March, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx announced her office would not bring criminal charges against the officers involved in both the Alvarez and Toledo shootings. Foxx said at a news conference that prosecutors determined both officers reasonably believed they were in danger when they opened fire. Both Toledo and Alvarez were carrying guns on the nights they were shot.

The Police Department released its final version of a foot pursuit policy in June, which was in the making for over a year since the Alvarez and Toledo shootings.

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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 also must not start a chase or stop one for various reasons, such as if the officer becomes injured or a third party is injured and requires immediate medical aid; if the officer is unaware of their current location; and if the officer loses his or her radio or firearm. The policy also states that if an officer is alone, he or she should not start or continue a chase.

All officers will receive e-learning training on the new policy, and it will also be built into the department’s in-person 40 hours of mandatory training, according to police leaders. Robert Boik, CPD’s executive director of constitutional policing and reform, said the policy won’t officially go into effect until all officers have been trained on it, which will likely be by the end of the summer.

pfry@chicagotribune.com

asweeney@chicagotribune.com

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