No charges will be filed against the Chicago police officers who chased and fatally shot 13-year-old Adam Toledo and 22-year-old Anthony Alvarez within days of each other last year, prompting sharp scrutiny of the department’s foot pursuit policy, a prosecutor announced Tuesday.
Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx said there was insufficient evidence to charge the officers in the deaths, which were captured on video that showed both suspects appeared to have handguns prior to the shootings.
The public release of the videos in April 2021 renewed calls for reform of the Chicago Police Department, which for decades has had a reputation for brutality, misconduct and racism. And it came as videos of police confrontations put departments around the country under heavy scrutiny, especially after the footage from 2020 that helped lead to a murder conviction in the death of George Floyd.
Foxx was critical of the officers in the shooting death of Alvarez, saying they created the situation that put them in danger. Alvarez was walking when officers approached him because of a traffic incident the night before.
Alvarez ran away, turned a corner and fell, Foxx said. When Officer Eric Solano turned the corner, Alvarez was getting up off the ground, and it appeared to the officer that Alvarez was about to shoot him.
“As he (Alvarez) began to use both hands to push himself off the ground, Officer Solano arrived at the corner of the residence and observed Mr. Alvarez in a crouching position with a handgun in his right hand,” Foxx said. That led Solano, she said, to believe Alvarez “was waiting to ambush him.”
In the Toledo shooting, police were on the scene after a gunshot detection system the city uses recorded eight shots in the area. When they arrived, the only two people they saw were Toledo and a Ruben Roman, then 21, both of whom immediately started to run away.
Officer Eric Stillman saw that Toledo had his hands near his waistband, causing him to believe that the teen had a gun. Foxx said when the officer caught up to Toledo and ordered him to put down the gun, the teen’s hand that held the gun was behind a wooden fence post. She said that the teen raised his right hand so quickly that it was impossible to determine if he’d dropped the gun.
Between the time he began to turn with the right hand that had been holding the gun and the time the officer shot him when he was no longer holding the gun “was estimated to be 838 milliseconds,” Foxx said.
The prosecutor said she met with families of both Toledo and Alvarez earlier Tuesday. In meeting with Alvarez family and their attorney, Foxx said the family was “unmistakably heartbroken” and had “many, many questions” about how officers approached him, including why they didn’t come to their house if they knew they were looking for him .
Foxx also described Toledo’s family as “heartbroken.”
Foxx said the officers in both cases demonstrated they feared for their lives at the moment they fired. But she added she has “deep concerns” about the Chicago Police Department’s foot pursuit policy in both cases. The city has said it is reviewing the policy.
“I think in the instances we’ve seen, especially with Mr. Alvarez, we have to ask ourselves, was this worth the effort?” Foxx said.
Foxx said she has spoken with Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, police Superintendent David Brown and the head of the Civilian Office on Police Accountability and believes there is “a full awareness” that the foot pursuit policy must change.
“I think the deaths that we have seen, the risk to our officers, absolutely necessitates that we have a foot pursuit policy that keeps everyone safe,” she said.
This story has been updated to correct that the shootings happened within days, not within weeks.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.