Chicago Police Officer Who Chased Anthony Alvarez Before He Was Shot in 2021 Should Be Fired for Abusing Girlfriend in 2017, Officials Say

An image from body camera video released April 28 by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability shows Anthony Alvarez, 22, in the moments before he was shot by a Chicago police officer March 31, 2021. (WTTW News via COPA)An image from body camera video released April 28 by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability shows Anthony Alvarez, 22, in the moments before he was shot by a Chicago police officer March 31, 2021. (WTTW News via COPA)

An officer who chased Anthony Alvarez before his partner shot and killed the 22-year-old on March 31, 2021, should be fired for abusing his girlfriend in 2017, former Chicago Police Supt. David Brown and the agency charged with investigating police misconduct ruled, according to documents obtained by WTTW News.

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Officer Sammy Encarnacion physically and verbally abused his girlfriend, pointed his department-issued gun at her and was often intoxicated while armed, according to the results of the probe conducted by Civilian Office of Police Accountability, known as COPA. The documents were released Thursday after lawyers for the city informed the officer of the charges against him.

Encarnacion, who can still challenge his termination with an appeal to the Chicago Police Board, could not be reached for comment by WTTW News. He was not listed Friday as an active member of the Chicago Police Department in the city’s online database.

It is unclear why the probe of Encarnacion, which determined he violated 17 departmental rules, took six years to complete.

Encarnacion’s conduct that prompted COPA’s recommendation that he be fired took place four years before Alvarez was shot and killed.

“The complexity of this investigation is reflected in the dozens of allegations against the officer that required a thorough review and unique circumstances regarding the officer’s availability,” First Deputy Chief Administrator Ephraim Eaddy said in a statement to WTTW News.

Within a week of the complaint’s filing on Nov. 12, 2017, COPA officials urged CPD officials to conduct a “behavioral intervention” and evaluation because of concerns about the nature of the accusations filed against Encarnacion.

It is unclear whether that recommendation was followed by former Supt. Eddie Johnson.

In July 2022, Brown recommended that Encarnacion be suspended for 20 days for failing to activate his body-worn camera while chasing Alvarez and for failing to notify police dispatchers about the chase, based on the results of a probe conducted by COPA. 

That decision was upheld by Chicago Police Board member Steven Block, a former federal prosecutor.

Brown objected to COPA’s recommendation that Officer Evan Solano, Encarnacion’s partner, be fired for shooting Alvarez. Block sided with Brown, who recommended that Solano instead be suspended for 20 days. Block could have sent Solano’s case to the full Police Board, which could have terminated him, but chose not to do so.

Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx declined to file criminal charges against Solano in connection with the death of Alvarez.

Alvarez’s family has sued the city, and said Solano should have been fired.

“These officers should have been off the streets long before the killing of Anthony Alvarez,” said attorney Christopher Smith said in a statement. “How can the city stand behind these officers now?”

Encarnacion should never work as a law enforcement officer again, Smith said.

The probe by COPA concluded that Encarnacion’s 2017 conduct was “severe.” It was completed on May 31, 2022, and Brown agreed to terminate the officer on Aug. 3, records show.

“He physically and verbally abused an intimate partner on multiple occasions and caused bodily harm to her during several of those instances,” the report concludes. “Additionally, Officer Encarnacion was in possession of his firearm and intoxicated on multiple occasions.”

COPA’s probe details Encarnacion’s violent and tumultuous relationship with a woman, who was not identified by officials, that began in January 2016 and ended in November 2017 after she filed a police report alleging he pushed her several times, grabbed her around the neck and hit her head against a table and hit her several times in the face.

The woman was treated at a North Side hospital and diagnosed with a “head injury and injury due to physical assault,” according to the report.

The woman declined to press charges against Encarnacion, and the matter was closed.

Encarnacion physically abused the woman at least five times, according to the report.

The probe declared the “most concerning” information uncovered was the fact that Encarnacion fired his weapon out a window in June 2016 and did not report it as required, which “endangered the safety of himself and others.”

During an argument prompted by his drinking, Encarnacion pulled his gun out and pointed it at the woman, telling her it was not loaded, the report states. 

“Encarnacion pointed the gun towards the window and pulled the trigger,” according to the report, which included a picture of an apartment window with a bullet hole in it the woman gave to investigators. No one was injured in that incident.

Encarnacion demonstrated “a lack of judgement and self-control that cannot be tolerated. An officer who behaves in such a manner not only brings discredit upon the department, but also is a risk to public safety,” according to the conclusion of the probe.

Chicago Inspector General Deborah Witzburg found in September 2022 that the department has not addressed the root causes of the misconduct that has forced the city to pay $250 million to resolve lawsuits against officers between 2017 and 2020.

“Despite the immense harm and staggering cost associated with improper uses of force, police-involved traffic collisions, and other avoidable problems, the Police Department and City of Chicago Department of Law do not systematically assess opportunities to reduce harm, reduce costs, and reduce opportunities for litigation, make appropriate changes to training and policy, and monitor progress,” according to the report.

The Chicago Police Department has compiled with just 3% of a consent decree ordered by a federal judge that is designed to address the findings of a 2017 Department of Justice report that determined Chicago Police officers routinely violated the constitutional rights of Black and Latino Chicagoans. The department must change the way it trains, supervises and disciplines officers as part of that agreement.

That probe was ordered in the wake of the 2014 murder of 16-year-old Laquan McDonald by a former Chicago police officer.

Contact Heather Cherone: @HeatherCherone | (773) 569-1863 | [email protected]

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