JEFFERSON PARK — On the day Anthony Alvarez would have turned 23, his family and friends rallied outside the 16th District police station Monday to again call for officials to fire the officer who fatally shot him last year.
Officer Evan Solano shot Alvarez in his back after a foot chase March 31 in Portage Park. Since then, Alvarez’s family and activists have hosted vigils and marches, unveiled a little library in his honor and asked people to sign a petition demanding Solano be fired and face charges.
“We are not going to give up until we get justice, and justice for us means that the officer, Evan Solano, gets fired and charged,” said Roxana Figueroa, Alvarez’s cousin.
When videos of the shootings were released, the Civilian Office of Police Accountability made the unusual recommendation that the Police Department strip Solano of his police powers during its investigation. That would forbid him from carrying a badge or a gun.
Solano, who works in the 16th District, was stripped of his powers in June, months after the police watchdog group’s recommendation. City and police officials have remained tight-lipped about Solano’s fate as a police officer.
Late last month, COPA completed its investigation into the shooting and sent its report to Supt. David Brown. Brown has until March 22 to review the findings and recommendations.
A COPA spokesperson did not return requests for comment. The agency will release its report following Brown’s review and after any disciplinary charges are served, according to a news release.
As Alvarez’s family and friends await a decision, they hope officials fire Solano, Figueroa said.
“We have been praying very hard so Brown makes the right decision,” she said. “We are anxious to see what decision he is going to make. … We know it takes a long time, but we have already waited long enough, and we want that officer fired.”
Tim Grace, an attorney for Solano, said his client should not be fired and was following his training when he shot Alvarez.
“We appreciate and sympathize with the family’s feelings about the death of Alvarez,” Grace said. “However, unfortunately, Mr. Alvarez had a gun, which was oriented at Chicago police officer Evan Solano, and placed him in fear of death or great bodily harm. He had no cover and no concealment. He followed his training.”
Alvarez had a gun, but he was not shown raising it or pointing it at anyone in the videos. An autopsy showed he was shot in his back.
Alvarez’s killing was highly controversial — and it’s caused contention on the Northwest Side. His memorial has been partially removed or destroyed at least three times since it was installed in March, and Figueroa said police officers routinely harassed the family for gathering there.
Figueroa said officials have not been transparent about the investigation into Alvarez’s killing and she has not heard from COPA’s investigators.
“We want the whole neighborhood to know we are still here,” said Elizabeth Gallegos, an activist with the Party for Socialism and Liberation who led the small group in protest chants calling for justice.
Figueroa was also disappointed some members of the Portage Park community, where her cousin grew up, have not been supportive of the family’s efforts to seek justice or remember him — but it hasn’t deterred her.
“It’s taken very, very long, but that’s why we are here to put on that pressure and get that justice,” she said.
Solano’s past shows he is not fit to be an officer, Figueroa said. In May, video surfaced of Solano, in uniform, arguing with another driver in Logan Square and taking out his gun as the confrontation escalated.
Since becoming an officer in 2015, Solano has had almost a dozen investigations launched into his actions, according to the Sun-Times.
The investigations include complaints of use of force, improper traffic stops, an illegal vehicle search and an allegation of a false arrest for a 2020 incident at the Jefferson Park library branch, according to the Citizens Police Data Project.
Grace declined to comment on these complaints about Solano, but he said the Logan Square incident was a “situation where he had to defend himself.”
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