Anthony Alvarez’s aunt said watching video of her nephew being fatally shot by a Chicago police officer in Portage Park was gut-wrenching. But what made it worse was seeing officers appear to struggle to help her nephew as he lay dying.
Now, Maria Alvarez, 40, is raising questions about the officers’ first-aid training, adding that it looked like they were unsure of what to do when Anthony Alvarez collapsed after being shot.
“To me, it looks like the officers took too long to give him first aid,” she said Wednesday in Spanish. “One of them even tried to handcuff him until the other officer told him not to.”
In the videos, released Wednesday by the city’s Civilian Office of Police Accountability, which investigates police shootings, a Chicago police officer can be heard yelling “Drop the gun! Drop the gun!” before firing five shots from close range during a foot chase in Portage Park.
Alvarez, 22, collapses onto the front sidewalk of a home on the 5200 block of West Eddy Street on the morning of March 31.
A gun can be seen in Alvarez’s right hand in the footage captured by the body camera of the officer who pulled the trigger.
Video from a camera mounted to a home feet from where Alvarez collapsed shows a gun drop from his hand as he falls to the pavement.
“Why are you shooting me?” Alvarez asks the officer.
“You had a gun,” the officer said.
The video doesn’t show Alvarez pointing a gun at the officers in pursuit.
When the officer who fired the shots tells his partner to place handcuffs on Alvarez, the other officer said: “No, I’m going to render aid.”
Alvarez was wounded twice, once in the right side of his back with an exit wound in the upper right chest, and once in his right thigh, according to a police document released Wednesday.
Alvarez was taken to Illinois Masonic Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.
Officers: Units ‘just passed us’
Shortly after the shooting, video shows the officer who shot Alvarez standing by the gun on the ground while his partner begins administering first aid to Alvarez and repeatedly tells the 22-year-old to “stay with me.”
The officer who shot Alvarez can be heard requesting an ambulance to the wrong address. He said they were on Dakin Street instead of Eddy. Officers note on video that units “just passed us.”
After appearing to have difficulties opening the package containing a chest shield, the shooting officer started chest compressions, a video shows. Other officers took over first aid of Alvarez when they arrived.
“I don’t think he shot at me, did he?” the officer is heard saying on the video. “I, I, I, I shot somewhere right there.”
Officers continued to tend to Alvarez until the paramedic arrived, with one saying “hang in there, dude, hang in there,” according to the video.
Aunt says getting aid ‘took way too long’
Maria Alvarez said she believes the officers wasted precious time while trying to keep her nephew alive.
“The officers couldn’t even get a bag open,” she said. “When he needed help the officers took way too long.”
Maria Alvarez said her sister, Veronica, Anthony’s mother, is in “shock” and doesn’t understand why her son was shot. Maria Alvarez added that the entire family still has a lot of questions after viewing the body-camera footage.
The family wants to know what the officers wanted with Anthony that night, and why they began chasing him, Maria Alvarez said, adding that police have had very little communication with the family since the shooting.
“We want justice and for the police to face us and give us answers,” she said. “We want to know what the officer was thinking when he shot him in the back.”
COPA: Relieve officer of police powers
The Chicago Police Department and COPA said Anthony Alvarez ran off as tactical officers approached him at a gas station, leading to a foot chase. What the officers wanted from Alvarez wasn’t disclosed.
However, at an unrelated news conference before the video was released, Mayor Lori Lightfoot referred to it as “a minor traffic offense,” saying: “We can’t live in a world where a minor traffic offense results in someone being shot and killed. That’s not acceptable to me and shouldn’t be acceptable to anyone.”
COPA announced Wednesday it had recommended the officer who shot Alvarez be relieved of police powers during the investigation, which would mean the officer would be placed on paid desk duty after a standard 30-day leave.
Police Supt. David Brown said Wednesday at a news conference that he hadn’t been notified of the COPA recommendation.
Brown declined to share additional details of the shooting, what led to it or his thoughts on it, saying it was important he refrain from sharing his opinion so COPA could conduct a “clean and clear” investigation.
The 30-year-old officer who fired the fatal shots joined the force in 2015. The Invisible Institute, which tracks police discipline, said late Wednesday the officer had four complaint records and 11 use-of-force reports between 2017 and mid-2020. The Sun-Times isn’t naming him because he isn’t officially accused of wrongdoing.
Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara said the shooting was justified.
“It’s a 100% good shooting,” he said, adding that, in his opinion, Alvarez was turning, gun in hand, to face the officer when the shooting occurred.
“The offender was trying to turn to the left, you don’t wait until the guy turns all the way around and squares up to you until you shoot,” he said.
Catanzara said the officer, in fear for his life, moved left to seek cover behind nearby parked cars when he fired his weapon.
“The officer actually even raises his left hand almost to his face, almost trying to block a bullet, it goes to the mindset of where the officer was,” he said.
Lightfoot and attorneys representing the Alvarez family issued a joint statement Wednesday morning asking for people who wish to “express themselves” in response to the video “do so peacefully and with respect for our communities and the residents of Chicago.
Most of Alvarez’s family saw the video footage Tuesday. In a statement Wednesday, the family’s attorney said the videos provided “no answers” but raised many questions.
“Anthony’s family and the residents of Chicago deserve answers to all of these questions,” the statement read. “Today, a spokesperson for the Chicago Police Department stated that there is ‘nothing wrong’ with shooting someone from behind. The Alvarez family, and hopefully the investigating authorities, believes otherwise.”
Alvarez was shot two days after an officer shot and killed 13-year-old Adam Toledo on March 29 in Little Village. Toledo’s killing also happened during a foot chase, prompting Lightfoot to direct CPD to draft a new foot pursuit policy.
WARNING: GRAPHIC VIDEO
The mayor said Wednesday the Police Department is making progress on her directive to revise the foot chase policy.
“As I’ve said before, it’s one of the most dangerous activities that officers engage in. Dangerous for themselves. Dangerous for the person being pursued. And it’s dangerous for members of the public.”
Lightfoot urged everyone to “look at both the raw footage” of the Alvarez shooting “at real speed” as well as the “frame-by-frame” of what happened.
“I understand, having investigated many of these shootings, that officers are, in many instances, called upon to make split-second decisions, particularly in instances like this one where there’s a gun,” said Lightfoot, a former Police Board president.
“Nonetheless … a traffic incident … should not result in the death of anyone. So we have more work to do to be sure.”
Lightfoot said she hopes to have that new foot chase policy ready for public review sometime next month.
But, she said, it’s got to be done “the right way” with plenty of input.
“What I’ve encouraged the department to do is to make sure they’re engaging on the front-end with key stakeholders, not the least of which is line police officers who are gonna be responsible for implementing whatever the new policy is. We have to have their voices, as well as community voices, in those discussions … and reflected in the new policy,” the mayor said.
“It’s really important that we get it right,” Brown said of the policy.
Alvarez remembered as ‘very caring person’
Maria Alvarez, who lives in suburban Broadview, said Anthony Alvarez was “very kind, very handsome and laughed at everything.”
“He was a very, very caring person,” she said.
Anthony Alvarez loved playing and watching soccer and rooted for Pumas, a Mexican football club based in Mexico City.
Anthony “was a skinny young man,” Maria Alvarez said. “We don’t know why the officer didn’t use a Taser. Why did he shoot him so many times?”
“You can’t imagine how hard it was to see someone, especially a family member, like that. It was very hard for all of us.”
In the family’s statement Wednesday, Oscar Martinez said he was with his son earlier that night and that they had made plans for a family dinner in the coming days.
“I can’t believe he is gone,” Martinez is quoted as saying. “I really miss my son. I just want some answers; why did they do this to Anthony?”
Contributing: David Struett