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Police Department’s Failure To Implement A Foot Chase Policy Led To Cop Killing Anthony Alvarez, Family Claims In Lawsuit

In 2017, the Justice Department called on the Police Department to overhaul its chase policy when a suspect poses no immediate threat. The department missed multiple deadlines to make changes.

Anthony Alvarez's family and supporters march May 1, 2021 to demand justice for the young father fatally shot by a police officer.
Ariel Parrella-Aureli/Block Club Chicago
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PORTAGE PARK — Anthony Alvarez’s family is suing the city and two Chicago police officers, saying police never should have started a “dangerous foot chase” that led to an officer fatally shooting the 22-year-old Portage Park man last year.

Giselle Higuera, mother of Alvarez’ now-3-year-old daughter, filed the federal lawsuit Wednesday, naming the city, and Officers Evan Solano and Sammy Encarnacion as defendants.

Solano is the officer who shot and killed Alvarez March 31, 2021 just blocks from Alvarez’s home after police said Alvarez pulled out a handgun “which led to a confrontation.” Alvarez’s family has repeatedly called for Solano to be fired and charged with murder.

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 last week. “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 videos that captured the incident. 

Credit: Provided.
Anthony Alvarez with his daughter.

The lawsuit points to a 2017 Justice Department report which “found that the CPD’s pattern and practice of unreasonable force included shooting at fleeing suspects who presented no immediate threat.” The failure to change the chase policy despite a federal mandate contributed in part to Solano killing Alvarez, the suit states. 

“This family deserves justice. We can’t wait any longer for the city to step up and do the right thing,” said Alvarez family attorney Christopher Smith. 

Police Spokesman Kellie Bartoli and Law Department Spokesman Kristen Cabanban declined to comment, citing pending litigation.

Read the lawsuit below.

Solano fatally shot Alvarez two days after another police officer fatally shot 13-year-old Adam Toledo in Little Village, which also started as a foot chase.

Videos of the shooting show officers — including Solano — approached Alvarez as he was walking near a gas station, then chased him down an alley when he ran away. Solano fired at least five shots at Alvarez as he ran from them in front of a row of homes in the 5200 block of West Eddy Street. 

Alvarez had a gun, but the videos did not show him raising it or pointing it at anyone leading up to the shooting.

Two of Solano’s five shots hit Alvarez. Cook County Medical Examiner records show Alvarez was shot in his back, under his right shoulder blade and in his left thigh.

Details about why police were chasing Alvarez in the first place remain murky. Police officials and the Civilian Office of Police Accountability have refused to answer that question. Police records made public by COPA added no insight. 

The day the videos were released, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Alvarez was shot after a traffic stop, but surveillance video shows Alvarez was walking when the police approached him.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Attorney Tania Dimitrova and Delilah Martinez help reconstruct the memorial for Anthony Alvarez after it was removed from the public space at the corner Laramie Avenue and Eddy Street on June 1, 2021. Alvarez was fatally shot by Chicago Police officer Evan Solano on March 31 near the intersection during a foot pursuit.

Police did not witness Alvarez breaking any law before the chase and he was not wanted for any violent or felony offense, according to the lawsuit.

“Startled, and fearful of the officers’ intentions, Anthony ran…approaching Anthony as defendants did — by driving their car at him and initiating a dangerous foot chase without adequate cause — constituted excessive force,” the lawsuit said.

Months after Toledo and Alvarez were killed, the Police Department missed a Sept. 3, 2021 deadline for adopting a new foot chase policy as part of the consent decree process.

“We’ve been waiting for this policy about foot chases for years,” Smith said. “This isn’t rocket science. Just put it down on paper and give the guidance to the officers so they stop getting into these extremely dangerous situations when nothing really is at stake.”  

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