Warning: Story describes graphic content.
CHICAGO — The mayor appealed for calm Thursday as the city released body camera videos of last month’s fatal shooting of Adam Toledo, 13, by a Chicago police officer — an incident that appears to show Adam’s hands in the air when he was shot.
According to one officer’s bodycam video, he pulls up in a car, gets out, pushes past another man and runs down an alley shouting “stop” toward Adam, who is dressed in jeans, a sweatshirt and white baseball cap. Adam runs away from the officer, then slows down and pauses near a fence.
Adam can be seen tossing what appeared to be a gun behind the fence as he slows down, according to surveillance video shot from across a parking lot. The video shows the gun coming to rest on the backside of the fence.
That’s when the officer ordered Adam to show his hands, according to his bodycam video. The officer shouts for Adam to “stop it” or “drop it.” Adam turned toward the officer and put his hands up. The footage is grainy, but he did not appear to have a gun in either hand at that moment. The officer fired his weapon less than a second after Adam turned around to face him with his hands raised.
Adam clutched his chest and fell to the ground, and the officer got on his radio and said, “Get an ambulance here now.”
“I need a medical kit … hurry up,” the officer shouted to others on the scene, Adam beneath him, his eyes open and bleeding from the mouth and chest. “Stay with me,” the officer said. About a minute after firing, the officer told other officers he couldn’t feel a heartbeat and began chest compressions.
After attempting medical aid, the officer stood up and paced. At least half a dozen other officers arrived. As he walked to the fence where Adam had been standing, the officer shined a light on what looks to be the gun leaning against the fence.
According to a police response report, Adam was armed with a semiautomatic pistol that was “displayed, not used.” The officer listed “defense of self” as a reason for shooting.A separate, original case incident report listed the victim as being 18-25 years old.
The city’s Civilian Office of Police Accountability, which investigates cases of potential police misconduct, released 17 bodycam videos, four third-party videos, a transmission from the Office of Emergency Management and Communications, two audio recordings of 911 calls, six ShotSpotter recordings, as well as response and arrest reports.
“The truth came out,” Baltazar Enriquez, president of the Little Village Community Council, told reporters Thursday afternoon in Adam’s neighborhood. “Adam had his hands up.”
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot held a news conference with city leaders Thursday in advance of the release of the videos to call for calm, her voice cracking as she spoke.
“They are incredibly difficult to watch, particularly at the end,” said Lightfoot, who has a 13-year-old daughter. “No one should have a video broadcast widely of their child’s last moments, much less be placed in the terrible situation of losing their child in the first place. … Simply put, we failed Adam, and we cannot afford to fail one more young person in our city.”
Protests were planned in the city for Thursday evening, and Lightfoot urged residents to “proceed with deep empathy and calm and, most importantly, peace.” She asked Chicagoans to “reserve judgment” and “wait until we hear all the facts.”
Karina Ayala-Bermejo of Instituto del Progreso Latino, a nonprofit group based in Adam’s neighborhood, called on Chicagoans to “embrace our children” and “our communities.”
“I call for peace. I call for justice, but I also call for nonviolence,” she said.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker put out a statement Thursday saying that “As a father, I know to my core that Adam Toledo’s family is living a parent’s worst nightmare . . . Parents deserve neighborhoods that will nurture their kids. Children deserve to be safe. Communities deserve to live with hope for their future.”
The governor added: “Adam Toledo, a 13-year-old child, was shot to death. This is a moment that calls for justice for our children and accountability in all our public institutions.”
Ricardo Estrada of Metropolitan Family Services, who said he was raised five blocks from where Adam was killed, called on residents to give the family time to mourn. “Absolutely, we need to call for justice,” he said. “But in our community, we have a nine-days novena where we need to grieve. We need to allow this family to grieve.”
The Toledo family, after viewing the videos Tuesday night, requested the footage not be immediately released to the public, according to a statement by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability.
“The experience was extremely difficult and heartbreaking for everyone present and especially for Adam’s family,” family attorneys Adeena Weiss-Ortiz and Joel Hirschhorn said in a statement Tuesday night. Thursday morning, the lawyers issued a joint statement with the mayor’s office, saying “both parties agree that all material should be released.”
The videos come amid rising tensions nationwide over fatal police shootings and deaths in police custody, including the shooting of Daunte Wright, 20, in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, miles from where former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin is on trial in the death of George Floyd. Thursday, Lightfoot acknowledged Wright’s killing and the trial “have only heightened feelings of pain and anger.”
Demonstrations in Chicago began last week as protesters from throughout the city demanded police accountability in the deaths of Adam and Wright. Dozens marched through downtown Tuesday evening, and dozens more gathered Wednesday evening for a rally and march.
Asked about how Chicago was preparing for the release of the videos, Lightfoot said the city has “been preparing for the Chauvin trial for months now. And as part of those preparations, we have been in regular contact with businesses all across the city, not just in the downtown area.”
What police say happened in Adam Toledo’s killing
According to police, officers were dispatched to the Little Village neighborhood in the early hours of March 29 when the department’s ShotSpotter technology detected eight gunshots. When police arrived, Adam and 21-year-old Ruben Roman fled, authorities said.
An officer shot Adam once in the chest after an “armed confrontation” in an alley, police said. Adam died at the scene.
Lightfoot and other city officials have offered various narratives around whether Adam had a gun or not. Earlier this month, Lightfoot suggested Adam was holding a gun, saying “an adult put a gun in a child’s hand.” And on Saturday, prosecutors alleged Adam was holding a gun when the officer shot him.
But on Thursday, a Sarah Sinovic, chief spokeswoman for the Cook County State’s Attorney, said “an attorney who works in this office failed to fully inform himself before speaking in court. Errors like that cannot happen and this has been addressed with the individual involved. The video speaks for itself.”
Also Thursday,Lightfoot’s phrasing changed, and she said Adam was “a child who was in contact with an adult who had a gun.” Asked whether Adam shot at an officer, she said: “I’ve seen no evidence whatsoever that Adam Toledo shot at the police.”
The officer has been placed on administrative leave for 30 days.
A case incident report identified the officer who fired the shot as 10th district patrol officer Eric Stillman. The officer, a 34-year-old white man, has been a Chicago police officer since August 2015, according to the report.
Three complaints and four use of force reports have been filed against Stillman between 2017 and mid-2020, according to the Invisible Institute, which records police interactions with the public. Among the allegations filed by citizens were two that claimed improper searches of cars, and use-of-force violations. However, information on the disposition of those cases is unclear from the records.
Romancan be seen onsurveillance video firing the rounds that brought police to the scene before he and Adam fled. As Roman was arrested, another officer chased Adam.
On Saturday, Roman was held on a $150,000 bond and faces felony charges of unlawful use and reckless discharge of a firearm, as well as child endangerment and violating probation.
Lightfoot said in early April the tragedy emphasizes the need to change Chicago police foot pursuit policy, saying such pursuits are one of the most dangerous activities police engage in because they are often separated from their partners and communication becomes difficult. She said there will be focus groups of officers and community members to evaluate best practices.
“It’s clear that trust between our communities and law enforcement has not healed and instead is badly broken,” Lightfoot said Thursday, recognizing Chicago’s long history of “police abuse.”
“While we don’t have enough information to be the judge and jury of this particular situation, it is certainly understandable why so many of our residents feel an all-too-familiar surge of outrage and pain,” she said.
Lightfoot also renewed calls for federal gun control legislation and said she would continue speaking with the Biden administration about closing loopholes and mandating background checks.
Asked Thursday what more the city could have done to prevent the shooting, Lightfoot said she doesn’t “presume to have an answer.” She said: “Our young people have been living with a lot of trauma for a long time.”
Protesters gather Thursday night after release of video
A handful of protestors gathered in front of Cloud Gate in downtown Chicago’s Millennium Park just hours after footage was released of the police shooting of Adam Toledo. Behind them were two banners: one with the words “BLACK LIVES MATTER” and the other with the words “DEFUND THE POLICE.”
Rabbi Michael Ben Yosef said he called the news conference in solidarity with the Toledo family.
“He put his hands up and was still murdered. What more could he have done?” Yosef said.
Among the protestors were the family members of other victims of police shootings, including Ray Wilson, who said he is the cousin of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man shot by police last year in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Wilson said he is demonstrating in solidarity with Adam’s family.
Chantel Brooks, the mother of Michael Westley, a 15-year-old who was fatally shot by a Chicago police officer in 2013, was also among the protestors.
“It hurts to still be standing here, saying the same thing today,” she said. “If we got justice then for my child, we wouldn’t be here again today.”
Brooks said that, to her, the reason behind the shooting of Adam Toledo is clear: racism.
“They try to say it’s not about race but it always is,” she said.
“We know why this happened. It’s the color of this little boy’s skin,” said Gloria Pinex, the mother of Darius Pinex, who was killed by Chicago police in 2011.
“We have dead children we are trying to get justice for,” she continued. “After 10 years, we’re still fighting. It never ends.”
As a mother, Pinex said she knows first hand “the grief and anguish” of Adam’s mother, and she said she knows authorities will “demonize her baby just like they demonized mine.”
Pinex said the fight for justice for Adam will be a long and difficult one, but she hopes systemic change will come.
“You’re going to have to fight tooth and nail because they will fight tooth and nail for the system that’s killing us,” she said. “We need a complete overhaul of the system because it is so broken.”
Prominent Chicago activist Ja’Mal Green stood outside the Chicago Police Department headquarters on the city’s South Side Thursday evening and called for the abolition of police.
“No matter why he (Adam) was out at that time, no matter what happened prior to that confrontation, the reality of the situation is, that young boy should still be alive today,” Green said. “He’s not here to defend himself. He’s not here to say how afraid he was of police he is and why he ran. All we know is, in that video, his hands were up, and he was shot in the chest.”
Green, who was involved in organizing protests in the wake of the police killing of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in Chicago, said he pushed for police reforms for many years but now believes the “system can’t be reformed.”
“I was pushing for these bodycams, these tasers and all these different reforms that we got. And look where we are today. They don’t care if they got a camera on … They don’t care if they got a taser. Look what happened in Minnesota,” he said.
Family says Adam attended Gary Elementary School, was ‘loved and supported’
Adam was a “loved and supported 13-year-old boy” from a “close-knit family,” the family said in a statement through their lawyers earlier this month. He lived with his mother, his 90-year-old grandfather and two of his siblings, and his father was in his life, the statement said.
Adam attended Gary Elementary School, where he had the support of his teachers and his classmates, the statement said. According to Chicago Public Schools, Gary is a high-rated school serving more than 900 students from third through eighth grade. Nearly 98% of students are Hispanic, and 95% are low income.
In the statement, the family said they wanted to “correct the hurtful and false mischaracterization of Adam as a lonely child of the street who had no one to turn to.”
“This is simply not true,” the statement said. “Adam was not alone.”
Community demands transparency, answers
Speaking to reporters in Adam’s neighborhood Thursday afternoon, Enriquez, the Little Village Community Council president, told the media to “let the whole world know that an officer here in the City of Chicago assassinated a thirteen-year-old as he put his hands up, as he followed his instructions.”
“This officer still shot and murdered a 13-year-old. Our mayor, our superintendent tried to cover it up,” Enriquez said.
On Wednesday night, about a dozen protesters gathered at the city’s downtown Federal Plaza to demand police accountability and justice for Adam. The crowd later grew to two dozen marching through the streets of downtown Chicago with a drummer leading.
Handfuls of police officers on bicycles flanked the crowd on either side as three police cars followed closely behind. A Black Lives Matter flag flew alongside a banner with a photo of Adam, the hashtag #justiceforadamtoledo, and the words “CPD stop killing our children.”
Enriquez started a lineup of speeches by asking Lightfoot to share “the truth of what happened” to Adam. Hesaid the shooting is just further reason to abolish the police department and funnel its resources into social services.
Alma Sanchos, 33, said she was protesting for her 12-year-old daughter, who she says was friends with Adam. The two played video games together, she said. “Sometimes now I watch her just zoning out, and I know she’s thinking about him,” Sanchos said. “It’s just awful to be so young and have to think about these things like police brutality.”
Sanchos said that, as a mother, she could not imagine the grief Adam’s mother is experiencing. “There are no words,” she said. “She’ll never have her child back. Our children are supposed to be protected. They were supposed to protect them.”