The Civilian Office for Police Accountability (COPA) released footage Feb. 16 from the night of Dec.17 and the morning of Dec. 18, when U.S. Army veteran Irene Chavez died in Chicago police custody. 

She was found unconscious in a holding cell at the 3rd District Tactical Office. She was discovered with her shirt tied around her neck hanging from a metal bar sticking out of the wall about three feet off the ground.

The newly released Chicago Police Department (CPD) footage shows Chavez’s arrest and transport to Grand Crossing police station at 7040 S. Cottage Grove. It also shows the officers’ attempts to resuscitate her after discovering her body at 3:20 a.m. on Dec. 18. She was pronounced dead later that day at the University of Chicago Hospital at 11:30 a.m. 

(Editor’s note: The TRiiBE does not display harmful or trauma-inducing images. You can view the police footage here).

The footage was collected from CPD officers’ Body-Worn Cameras (BWC) and Police Observation Devices (PODs).

CPD’s original incident reports said that Chavez had attempted to hang herself with her own shirt. While the video does show officers untying the shirt from around Chavez’s neck, her hands are cuffed the entire time, which makes the officers’ claim of suicide difficult to reason. 

An attorney for the Chavez family, Andrew Stroth, declined to speak to The TRiiBE about the footage at this time. He said the family will be holding a press conference on Tuesday, Feb. 22. 

On Dec. 27, COPA released a statement in response to a notification their office received from CPD about what the department referred to as Chavez’s attempted suicide.

“At this time, there is no video surveillance of Ms. Chavez…where the alleged suicide attempt occurred,” the COPA statement read. “However, COPA will continue to conduct its investigation to determine if video captures the alleged suicide attempt and actions by officers in the immediate aftermath.”

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In a Jan. 6 update, COPA acknowledged that it had obtained body-worn footage from the nine arresting officers in the Chavez incident. 

“Although this incident does not mandate the release of video and other materials under the city’s video release policy, the chief administrator has the discretion to release footage in cases of great public interest. Chief Administrator Andrea Kersten has promised the release of footage within 60 days,” the COPA statement read.

The newly released footage also shows the nature of Chavez’s arrest. She was in an altercation with security guards at Jeffery Pub located in South Shore at 7041 S. Jeffery Boulevard. 

In the footage, the security guards explain to the responding officers that Chavez had been “belligerent” prior to allegedly punching one guard and spitting on another. She had been cuffed by the security guards before CPD arrived on the scene and remained cuffed throughout all of the footage. 

Chavez was transported to the 3rd District Tactical Office at the Grand Crossing police station at 7040 S. Cottage Grove. BWC footage of the transport shows Chavez being loaded into the back of a police van and escorted into the office. The last time that Chavez is shown conscious in the footage is when the transporting officers take her into a room at the station.

An autopsy was performed by the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office. The results of that autopsy have not been released to the public. According to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office website, “Copies of the autopsy and toxicology reports will usually be available 4-6 months after the cause of death is determined, and a death certificate is filed.”

is a staff writer with The TRiiBE. Email him with news tips.
is the editor-in-chief of The TRiiBE and a 2023-2024 John S. Knight Journalism Fellow.