Mayor Lori Lightfoot Called for Calm Prior to the Public Release of Body Camera Footage of Chicago Police Officers Fatally Shooting 13-Year-Old Mayor Lori Lightfoot called for calm prior to the public release of body camera footage. Adam Toledo was one of the youngest people to be killed by police in Illinois in recent years.
A blurry, fast-paced video released Thursday in Chicago shows a police officer chasing a boy down a dark alleyway, shouting at him to stop. “Stop immediately!” the officer yells, pleading with him to drop his pistol. “Hands,” Present your hands to me. Put it down. Put it down.”
A single shot rings out as the boy turns and raises his hands, and he collapses. Adam Toledo was assassinated. He was thirteen years old.
The officer’s body camera video sparked new outrage over police actions in Chicago, even as it sparked controversy over what the grainy and graphic images actually depicted. Activists declared downtown Chicago demonstrations against police brutality, and Mayor Lori Lightfoot pleaded for calm, even as she became emotional as she discussed Adam’s death and her own suffering while watching the video, which she described as “excruciating.”
Adam was one of the youngest people killed by police in Illinois in years. He lived in Chicago’s Little Village, a mostly Latino community on the city’s West Side.
Graphic recordings of police officer-involved shootings have enraged the country on several occasions. The video’s publication in Chicago coincides with the ongoing trial of Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer charged with murdering George Floyd, and with the indictment of another Minnesota officer, Kimberly A. Potter, in the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old motorist.
Officials have stated that two officers were responding to reports of gunfire in the early morning hours of March 29 when they saw two people in an alley and began pursuing them. According to prosecutors, Adam was carrying a pistol when he ran down the alley while an officer yelled at him to stop and drop the weapon.
Adeena Weiss Ortiz, a lawyer representing the Toledo family, said during a news conference on Thursday that the video shows Adam, a Latino seventh-grader at Gary Elementary School, refusing to obey the officer’s orders.
“He flung the gun,” she explained. “If he possessed a weapon, he tossed it. ‘Show me your hands,’ the officer said. He consented. He shifted his position.”
The critical events transpired in a fraction of a second. The New York Times slowed down the police footage, as well as another of the authorities’ 21 released recordings, in an analysis.
Adam raises his arms and appears to be empty-handed as the cop, identified in police reports as Eric E. Stillman, 34, fires the single shot. Adam can be seen moments before the shooting holding what appears to be a pistol behind his back, which he drops behind a wooden fence just before raising his hands, according to The Times’ report.
Officer Stillman summoned an ambulance after firing the shot, checked for the wound, and initiated CPR with the assistance of another officer. “Stay with me,” he repeated many times to Adam.
The Civilian Office of Police Accountability, an independent organization that conducts investigations into police shootings in Chicago, released the videos on Thursday, despite initial opposition based on Adam’s age.
The Chicago Police Department made no statement on the video beyond redistributing its April 1 news release about the incident, in which the department described the loss of life as “tragic” and pledged to cooperate with COPA in its investigation of the use of force.
Officer Stillman’s white attorney said that, while the shooting was horrific, it was justified considering the nature of the threat. “The officer was placed in a split-second situation where he could make a decision,” said Timothy Grace, a lawyer with the Chicago law firm Grace & Thompson hired by the Fraternal Order of Police.
Officer Stillman has been assigned administrative duties for 30 days; he joined the Chicago police department in August 2015 after serving in the military overseas, according to his lawyer.
Community advocates and others shared outrage when videos of the shooting spread on social media. According to others, the officer had no excuse to shoot at the boy.
“It was difficult to watch,” Baltazar Enriquez, president of the Little Village Community Council, said of the attack, which he considered to be murder. “Adam then lifts his hands and shoots him.”
Mr. Enriquez stated that protests were scheduled for Thursday and Friday evenings, with residents requesting that funds already allocated to the police budget be redirected to community services. “Everyone is enraged,” he said. “We do not need enraged police. Social workers are required.”
On Tuesday night, Adam’s family was allowed to view the video privately. Following that, the family released a statement in which they described the experience as “highly difficult and heartbreaking” for everyone present.
Ms. Lightfoot made an urgent plea for calm hours before the video was released. “We must proceed with profound empathy, composure, and, most importantly, peace,” she said, her voice cracking as she described the anguish of losing a child to gun violence. “No family should ever have a video of their child’s last moments broadcast widely, let alone be put in the heinous situation of losing their child in the first place,” she said.
Ms. Lightfoot said that both the Chauvin trial and a recent police shooting in a Minneapolis suburb exacerbated the anger and pain felt in Chicago.
Mr. Floyd’s death last year sparked protests around the country against police brutality and racism. Those feelings resurfaced during the trial, when dramatic video clips of Mr. Floyd gasping, “I can’t breathe,” while pinned under Mr. Chauvin’s knee was replayed. Nightly demonstrations have resumed in neighboring Brooklyn Center after another police shooting caught on body camera footage — the fatal shooting of Mr. Wright following a traffic stop for an expired registration.
Even before the video was released, Adam’s assassination in Chicago sparked demonstrations and harsh criticism of the Chicago Police Department. Ms. Lightfoot reiterated her call for the department to develop a clearer strategy for foot chases, which have far too often resulted in danger to offenders, police officers, and bystanders.
The shooting tapped into a tide of anguish and outrage that has gripped Chicago communities plagued by gun violence. Chicago, like other American cities, has struggled to contain the coronavirus pandemic’s spike in shootings. There were 131 murders in the first quarter of 2021, the most violent start to a year since 2017.
In the last week, a few specifics about the events leading up to Adam’s death appeared in court. Ruben Roman, 21, appeared in a Cook County courtroom on Saturday. Police said he was with Adam at the time of the shooting. He is being held on a $150,000 bond on charges of felony reckless discharge, illegal use of a firearm, and child endangerment.
Prosecutors allege that video surveillance captured Mr. Roman and Adam walking together down a West Side street around 2:30 a.m. Mr. Roman appears to fire multiple shots at an unknown target while carrying a pistol.
Adam’s mother has stated in recent days that she had no idea he was out the night of the shooting; she believed he was alone in his room at the time. She mentioned that Adam had been missing for several days but had returned home and entered the room he shared with his family.