PORTAGE PARK — Anthony Alvarez had an unusual take on ketchup ever since he was a kid.
Once, when Alvarez’s grandmother was babysitting and made the kids huevos con salchicha, he said he didn’t like ketchup because it was too spicy.
“We all looked at him and were like, ‘Ketchup is spicy?‘” said his cousin, Roxana Figueroa.
It’s one of many fond memories of Alvarez that Figueroa and her family are grappling with as they plan his funeral and demand answers about why police killed him last week.
The 22-year-old was fatally shot by a Chicago police officer about midnight March 31 in Portage Park, one of at least three people shot by police in the city in a week. Like 13-year-old Adam Toledo in Little Village, Alvarez was shot after a foot chase. Mayor Lori Lightfoot now says the department’s foot chase policy needs to be overhauled.
Police and the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, which investigates uses of force, have not answered questions about the shooting or why officers chased Alvarez in the first place. A week later, his family says they are still in the dark and have not been contacted by police.
The only details Alvarez’s family has learned about the shooting have been cobbled together from news reports, social media and neighbors, only raising more questions about what happened, they said.
Figueroa and another cousin joined a rally at Federal Plaza over the weekend in hopes of bringing more attention and responsiveness to what happened to Alvarez, who had a 2-year-old daughter.
“I was telling them that we want answers,” Figueroa said. “We want to know why he was being chased. Why nobody knocked on my aunt or uncle’s door. Why we had to find out everything on our own.”
Alvarez’s family says he stopped to see his father in Portage Park about 9 p.m. March 30 to show off a Jeep he just bought and to make family dinner plans.
About three hours later, officers were running after him in the 3500 block of North Laramie Avenue, police said.
The chase continued to the 5200 block of West Eddy Street, about two blocks from where Alvarez lived. There, police said Alvarez pulled out a handgun “which led to a confrontation.” At least one of the officers shot Alvarez, police said.
Alvarez was then taken to Illinois Masonic Medical Center and pronounced dead at 1:13 a.m. His death was ruled a homicide and its cause was multiple gunshot wounds, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office.
Police said they found a gun at the place they shot Alvarez. The officers involved have been placed on routine administrative duties for 30 days.
Alvarez’s mother tried reaching him later that morning and began worrying when he didn’t answer the phone, his family said.
“She called his younger brother, Alex, to ask if he was with him, and he said no. Anthony didn’t answer Alex’s calls, either,” Figueroa said. “There was a lot of noise out there in the neighborhood, and that’s when she went over to check why the officers were there.”
Alvarez’s mother went to the scene and showed police a photo of her son on her phone, asking if the person shot was him. They didn’t answer her questions, Figueroa said.
With the commotion nearby, and Alvarez’s family unable to reach him, relatives grew increasingly worried Alvarez was the person shot.
Later Wednesday, police told Alvarez’s family to contact the medical examiner on Thursday. Alvarez’s mother and father did so and went to the morgue, where they identified their son’s body.
Not having much insight into how this happened is only compounding the grief for Figueroa and her family.
“Some neighbors said they saw Anthony put his hands up in the air and was basically surrendering when he got shot,” Figueroa said. “When my aunt and uncle went to go identify his body, we saw he was hit with multiple shots. And we’re not getting any of this information from the officers.”
A police spokesperson declined comment, saying the shooting was being investigated by COPA. A representative for that agency didn’t respond to questions.
In addition to last week’s shootings, COPA data shows the agency is investigating four other shootings by police this year, all of which occurred in January.
The lack of concrete information has frustrated Alvarez’s family and local organizers who have pushed to reform the Police Department.
“You guys were chasing him, but why won’t you say why you were chasing him in the first place?” said India Jackson, communications director for non-violence group GoodKids MadCity. “These shootings are the perfect example of why we should defund police. They can’t even give people transparency into why they’re shooting people or explain what led up to the shooting.”
Alvarez’s family is raising money on GoFundMe for his burial.
Family said Alvarez was a very calm and quiet person who loved playing soccer, rooting for Mexico City’s Pumas football club with his family and providing for his 2-year-old daughter. He worked as a machine operator at a meat factory in suburban Franklin Park.
Beyond the ketchup — Alvarez maintained his stance as he got older, insisting it is, indeed, a little spicy — there was something else his siblings and cousins would tease him about.
“When Anthony was little we used to call him ‘pestanas’ because his eyelashes were really thick and we used to tease him because girls will spend all this money to make them look like his,” Figueroa said. “But his daughter got those long lashes from him.”
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