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Some aldermen question fatal police shooting: ‘The guy didn’t look like he was a threat to the officer’

“We’ve got to reform this stuff. We’ve got to come up with a way to handle and de-escalate,” Ald. George Cardenas (12th) said Wednesday.

A memorial for Anthony Alvarez is set up at North Laramie Avenue and West Eddy Street in the Portage Park neighborhood, near the spot where Alvarez was fatally shot by a Chicago police officer.
A memorial for Anthony Alvarez is set up at North Laramie Avenue and West Eddy Street in the Portage Park neighborhood, near the spot where Alvarez was fatally shot by a Chicago police officer.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

The former chairman of the City Council’s Hispanic Caucus said the fatal shooting of Anthony Alvarez by a Chicago police officer was difficult to justify, based on video released Wednesday.

Ald. George Cardenas (12th) called the video a “tough one” to watch and said the March 31 shooting was difficult to justify.

“The guy didn’t look like he was a threat to the officer. … It appears he had a gun, but he was obviously not facing the officer. That’s not where it should end,” said Cardenas, whose ward includes the location where 13-year-old Adam Toledo was fatally shot by Chicago police last month.

“If he faces the officer with the gun, then maybe that’s a reason to kind of react. … But if he’s not facing you, you’ve got to give him time to … get on his knees, put his hands behind his back. The whole thing was, `Drop the gun. Drop the gun.’ Then, pow, pow, pow. That’s a sequence that is very fast for somebody who is running and has adrenaline. The situation is not good.”

Illinois law “allows you to carry a gun, so a lot of people are gonna have guns in their hands. That’s not a reason to shoot anybody,” Cardenas said.

“If we keep this up, we’re gonna go broke” as a city, the alderman added, in a clear reference to a stream of multi-million settlements stemming from police-involved shootings.

“We’ve got to reform this stuff. We’ve got to come up with a way to handle and de-escalate. Wait ’til more backup arrives. If he’s a threat to you, then I understand. You’ve got to protect yourself. But that has to be beyond a reasonable doubt. If he faces you with a gun, I understand why you’ve got to shoot him. But that was not the case here.”

WARNING: GRAPHIC VIDEO

Ald. Felix Cardona Jr. (31st) represents an area near where the shooting occurred. He urged COPA to complete its investigation of the Alvarez shooting post-haste.

“The family needs answers. The city needs answers,” Cardona said.

Cardona was non-committal on whether he considers the Alvarez shooting justified or whether it appears to him that the young man was shot in the back.

“We’re gonna have different camera angles. You’re gonna have different interpretations and different ways of how people see this, depending on the lens,” the alderman said.

Ald. Ariel Reboyras (30th), whose ward includes the 5200-block of West Eddy, where Alvarez was shot, could not be reached for comment by the Sun-Times.

But Reboyras later put out a joint statement along with Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Cardona. The three offered condolences to the Alvarez family, and said they support demands for ”justice, accountability, and meaningful steps towards police reform in Chicago” and that they are “working tirelessly” toward that goal.

Ald. Michael Rodriguez (22nd), who represents the ward where the Toledo family lives, called the Alvarez video “gut-wrenching.”

“I’m sick of watching these videos,” Rodriquez said. “I saw a guy with a gun running from police get shot. A guy running away from a police officer. These foot chases are one of the glaring omissions of execution by our police department.”

After talking to “a couple of people inside” CPD, Rodriguez said, “there’s some questions whether there was probable cause for the pursuit” of Alvarez. “I can’t say more because I don’t know more.”

Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th) said he’s tired of hearing Lightfoot “offering platitudes and characterizing these shootings as ‘unacceptable.’”

What CPD needs is “systemic change that starts with police accountability,” and that can come only from civilian oversight over CPD, Sigcho-Lopez said.

“This was two days after the Adam Toledo shooting. Two days. We cannot wait for Mayor Lightfoot [any longer]. We need to make sure that we have independent investigations and oversight” of CPD, Sigcho-Lopez said.

“The police department keeps getting more and more funding without any accountability and we don’t see enough funding for our communities,” he added. “We need to invest in our youth. I don’t see that. Every day, there’s a child, there’s a minor, there’s a young person being shot or shot by police and this needs to end. This is terror, what we’re seeing in our communities. And through investment and police accountability, we can prevent more cases like this.”

On the other hand, Ald. Ray Lopez (15th) tweeted Wednesday: “Fleeing and pulling out a gun on the officers in pursuit shouldn’t be the footnote to a story. These ‘martyr narratives’ have got to stop.”