July 28, 2021

Chicago Police Need “Overhaul” After Foot Chases Led to Alvarez & Toledo Killings Within 48 Hours

12 min read

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, Democracynow.org, the Quarantine Report. I’m Amy Goodman.
People around the world marked May Day Saturday with celebrations, marches and protests calling for better working conditions, immigrant rights and police accountability. In Chicago, more than 100 people marched alongside the family of Anthony Alvarez, calling for the police officer who shot and killed him to be charged. Alvarez himself worked as a machine operator at a meat processing facility.
Last week, newly released video showed police killed the 22-year-old Alvarez while he was running away during a foot chase. Police have not said why they initially confronted and then chased him. At one point in the video, Alvarez is heard saying, “Why you shooting me?” The officer said, “You had a gun!” Alvarez was killed on March 31st, just two days after Chicago police shot dead another young Latino man. That was 13-year-old Adam Toledo also after a foot chase. At the time of his death, the seventh grader had his empty hands up in the air.
At Saturday’s protest, Anthony Alvarez’s two-year-old daughter carried a sign that read, “I miss my daddy” as she was pushed in a stroller pushed by her mother. This is Alvarez’s cousin, Roxana Figueroa, speaking last week after Chicago’s Civilian Office of Police Accountability released body camera video of the fatal shooting.

ROXANA FIGUEROA: Our family is devastated. We are heartbroken into a thousand pieces. My family, we thought we were going to get more clarity on the case after watching the videos but it has brought nothing but more questions.

AMY GOODMAN: Last week, several Illinois lawmakers took to the floor of the State House to condemn the police shooting of Anthony Alvarez. This is State Representative Will Guzzardi.

REP. WILL GUZZARDI: There may be those who rush to look at his record to see if he had any outstanding warrants. Was he a model citizen? Did he have affiliations? Was he hanging with a bad crowd? I would urge you, please check that impulse, friends, and to ask yourselves where it comes from. I don’t know Anthony’s story. No one in this room does. But we don’t believe in capital punishment here in Illinois, not after a trial by jury and certainly not after a trial by an officer in the street. And there’s nothing you can do, no record on your background, no affiliations, no history, nothing you can do to deserve being shot in the back while you run.

AMY GOODMAN: The police killings of Anthony Alvarez and Adam Toledo, 22 years old and 13 years old, within 48 hours of each other, came just four years after the Department of Justice found foot pursuits by Chicago police were leading to too many deaths. The DOJ’s investigation was triggered by the Chicago police killing of Black teenager Laquan McDonald in 2014. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Police Superintendent David Brown both say a new police foot pursuit policy is now underway.
For more, we go to Chicago to speak with Luis Gutiérrez, the former longtime Democratic congressmember from Illinois. He is calling for the resignation of the head of Chicago’s Fraternal Order of Police, President John Catanzara, who called the police killing of Anthony Alvarez, quote, “A 100% good shooting.”
Welcome back to Democracy Now!, Luis, and I guess welcome back to Chicago. You have been in Puerto Rico for two and a half years, is that right?
LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: Yes. So I returned to Chicago. I am going to be a grandfather, God willing, next Sunday, my youngest daughter, Jessica. So my wife and I are eagerly expecting Luis David. And we want to be here. We want to be here to help raise him. We want to nurture and love him and be part of his life, too. So we are going to spend time and continue our commitment obviously to Puerto Rico, and to its self-determination, but we’re going to do a lot of it from right here in Chicago as we help raise my grandson.
AMY GOODMAN: So, as you come back to celebrate life, you come back into a city that is dealing with one police killing after another. You’ve got Adam Toledo, seventh grader, gunned down on March 29th. And within 48 hours, a young man not twice his age, 22 years old, Anthony Alvarez, was gunned down, both of them in a police foot chase. Can you talk about what you are calling for and what your understanding is? The Anthony Alvarez case has gotten less attention.
LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: First, Amy, I arrived in Chicago on April 1st, and how sad and devastating it was to open up a newspaper and find out a 13-year-old child was gunned down by the Chicago Police Department. And as you have reported so ably, he had his hands up in the air with nothing in them. And I said to myself, “Wow, for two weeks, the State’s Attorney’s office and the officials of the City of Chicago, they said to me and to all Chicagoans there was an armed confrontation—let me repeat that—an armed confrontation between this 13-year-old boy and the Chicago police. That muzzled me. That silenced me. I’m not proud that it muzzled and silenced me, but it did. And it did to so many in the city of Chicago.
And then we saw the video. And then we saw the lie. There was no armed confrontation. There was a 13-year-old boy that shot in the chest, obeying the direction of a Chicago police officer. And I just want to make very clear—we have a serious problem with gangs in our neighborhood. It’s not new. I confronted them as a youth and they continue to be a scourge on our community. But that 21-year-old gang member put the gun in the 13-year-old’s hand. Why? Because that’s what gang members do. They exploit youth in our community. It shouldn’t be a death sentence. So we had that on the one hand. So I look forward to meeting this week with State’s Attorney Kim Foxx. We spoke last week. And so we’re going to engage in that conversation.
And then, Alvarez, shot in the back, Amy! Shot in the back. We don’t know what precipitated his chase. The mayor of the City of Chicago says it was a traffic violation. How does a traffic violation lead to someone’s death? He was shot in the back. And for Catanzara, the FOP chief of the city of Chicago, to say it was 100% good shooting, which means it was a good killing, a good murder? Wow. That’s the city that we live in when we have the Chicago Police Department, where the vast majority of white police officers live in segregated—yes, it may be 2021—in segregated neighborhoods of the city of Chicago and then come to our neighborhoods to continue to cause violence.
Look, we need to reimagine. We need to restructure. We need to do a complete overhaul of our Chicago Police Department. I am happy, Amy, that you alluded to earlier, that the Justice Department, after the murder—and that’s not my description; that is a jury’s description—of the death of Laquan McDonald, a murder that was covered up by the Mayor’s Office, the State’s Attorney’s office, the Police Department. And if it wasn’t for an able and diligent journalist such as yourself who went to court to demand the release of that video, we still wouldn’t know what really happened to Laquan McDonald.
But after Laquan McDonald, a 17-year-old Black youth who was gunned down by a Chicago police officer, 16 shots—a young man, he couldn’t have weighed 100 pounds if he was wet. He posed no threat to those Chicago Police officers. So there is this real sense that Brown and Black lives just don’t have the value that they should when Chicago police officers confront our youth.
So today, Amy, this afternoon, there are going to be several Chicago City Council members, several state legislators, we’re going to get together with community activists and we’re just going to have a conversation. We’re going to have a conversation. Because I think it’s time that we as Latinos and our leadership begin to address this not one by one, not I on one day and someday else on the next day, but as a unified force so that we can bring real change.
AMY GOODMAN: In fact, the Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx is actually there because—partially because of the Laquan McDonald case and the kind of cover-up then, and then she ran and won for her job. What are you calling on for Kim Foxx’s office?
LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: So look, here’s what I want to do. I’m calling for conversation, for a dialogue. She is going to grant that conversation and that dialogue. So I’m going in there because as you state, when Anita Alvarez, who was the Cook County state’s attorney, finally indicted the police officer, it was only because her cover-up of the videotape showing the murder of Laquan McDonald was forced into the public.
You know what I did. I wrote a letter, had a public press conference and said, “I resign from the Anita Alvarez campaign.” I was part of the campaign for her reelection. And I resigned. I said, “This is unacceptable, Anita.” And I resigned from her campaign. And I stood with Kim Foxx.
So when my state’s attorney Kim Foxx says that she didn’t take time to watch the video of the killing of Adam, I was just so taken aback. Because on the one hand, we had a state’s attorney who hid the murder of Laquan McDonald and on the other we had a state’s attorney who didn’t take time. That allowed her top lieutenants, I believe, to continue to demonize a 13-year-old boy. Remember, they told us for weeks that there was an armed confrontation. There was no armed confrontation. It is time that we hold the police accountable.
AMY GOODMAN: You have also tweeted that “Kim Foxx has zero Latinos or Latinas in her top leadership team. If she wants to accurately bring justice to our community, she needs to surround herself with those individuals who know our Latino communities.”
LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: Yes. So we looked and examined after she said she did not see the video, and we said, “What is it? What kind of staff doesn’t bring this to the attention of their boss?” And then we looked at it and here’s what we found. The eight deputy chiefs, these are the top of her office, no Latinos. The eight top, seven top supervisory capacity, not one Latino. So we’re going to talk about that. We are going to discuss that.
And hopefully, here is what is going to happen. We’re going to find that Latinos are going to be put in the kinds of positions—look, the city of Chicago is today—I know this might surprise people—is a third Latino. A third Latino. Just the city of Chicago. The county of Cook is 25% Latino. It’s a growing community. And it’s a community that is being so hurt because of the failures of our criminal justice system and the actions of the Chicago Police Department and other law enforcement.
AMY GOODMAN: How is it possible that they haven’t explained why they were even pursuing Anthony Alvarez?
LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: Well, they haven’t. And to her credit, the mayor joined the family, showed the video and now is saying to us that she is is going to take up the recommendations that were made by the Justice Department after the murder of Laquan McDonald. But what a tragedy in the city of Chicago. These are recommendations—the murder of Laquan McDonald just ripped the city apart, right? And yet we did not take the very simple actions that the Justice Department recommended. One of the recommendations. We need to change this.
I want to go out there. This is my gut feeling, Amy. I want to go out there and I want to go to high schools and I want to say to young girls and to young boys, “Look, why don’t we engage you in a process of dialogue so that you become the next peace officers in our community?” Peace officers in our community. Why don’t we change the Chicago Police Department so that we see more brown and Black faces in the Chicago Police Department at all the levels?
There is no reason why the city of Chicago, where one third of the population is white, over half the Chicago police officers are white. They’re disproportionately represented. It is the jobs that they control through the FOP and through the very structures that continue to exist. And this code of silence which was also demonstrated in the Laquan McDonald murder—why do we say that?—the other police officers were indicted for issuing false reports about the murder of Laquan McDonald. And they continue this code of silence.
AMY GOODMAN: And the video was held until after Rahm Emanuel, the former chief of staff of President Obama, but the mayor of Chicago, a Democratic mayor, was reelected. Now, during his speech to Congress last week, the joint session of Congress, President Biden called on lawmakers to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which would ban police chokeholds and eliminate qualified immunity for officers. It also seeks to ban racial and religious profiling, certain no-knock raids and would set up a national database to track police misconduct.
What has happened of the officers who killed the seventh grader, Adam Toledo? What happened to the police officers who killed Anthony Alvarez, who was 22 years old?
LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: Simply nothing. Nothing. We understand that the officer that shot Alvarez in the back, we understand that he has been relieved of his police duties. That means he continues to collect a salary and his benefits from the taxpayers of the City of Chicago and nothing has happened. And in the case—as they say, 100% good shooting, which means 100% good killing. How could you say something—and just put salt in the wounds of our community that is already devastated because of these shootings of two young men, one a 13-year-old boy, the other a 22-year-old young man?
And as Guzzardi—I’m so happy you put that video of Guzzardi up theres when he was speaking down in Springfield. You know what? All we know about Alvarez is that he was a dad. That he worked every day, went to work. And had no criminal background whatsoever. So this false narrative that they’re out there going against criminal elements that are hurting our community is just blatantly false.
And as the mayor of the City of Chicago said, “How is it that a traffic violation leads to someone’s death?” You know where it leads to someone’s death? In our community. Because we have police officers that are out of control, that cover up their own actions, that do not care about people. And one of the reasons they don’t care about our community, you want to know why? They don’t live in our community. They live in segregated white sectors, sections of the city of Chicago. Yes, it is 2021, but in some cases, Jim Crow is still alive.
AMY GOODMAN: Luis Gutiérrez, we just have ten seconds. Now that you’re back in Chicago, are you planning to run for higher office?
LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: No. What I intend to do is help raise my grandson and be involved and mentor and help this process.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you so much for being with us, former Democratic congressmember for Illinois, Luis Gutiérrez. Has recently returned to Chicago from Puerto Rico, where he was for the last more than two years.
Up next, we look back at the historic 1971 May Day protests against the Vietnam War when over 12,000 antiwar protesters were detained in Washington in the largest mass arrest in U.S. history. We will hear from Dan Ellsberg. Stay with us.