“If you’re shooting an unarmed child with his hands in the air, it is an assassination,” said an attorney for the boy’s family.
April 15, 2021
Editor’s note: The video at the end of this article contains graphic and violent content.
The civilian oversight agency of the Chicago Police Department on Thursday released videos and other materials that show 13-year old Adam Toledo had his hands raised and was not holding a gun when an officer shot and killed him in the city’s Little Village neighborhood on March 29.
Police previously said the child was in an “armed confrontation” and a handgun was later found at the scene, about 10 feet away. At a court hearing Saturday for a 21-year-old man who was with Toledo, a prosecutor with the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office said the 13-year-old had a gun in his hand and did not mention that boy had raised both hands before being shot by an officer who had chased him.
The office said Thursday that the prosecutor “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.”
The revelation intensified outrage over the killing within and beyond Chicago:
I'm at a loss for words over the bodycam footage of the murder of 13-year-old Adam Toledo in Chicago.
He was told to put his hands up. He did. He was gunned down anyway.
Police in America can not continue extrajudicial killings against its citizens. We need better solutions.
— j.d. durkin (@jiveDurkey) April 15, 2021
Media outlets need to stop spreading lies from the police. Stop giving police the benefit of a doubt.
— Voto Latino (@votolatino) April 15, 2021
The release comes during the trial of Derek Chauvin, the ex-cop accused of murdering George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, in Minneapolis last year. Floyd family attorney Ben Crump tweeted that he had seen the footage and would not be sharing it. He said: “It’s horrifying, traumatic, and another reminder of the police brutality epidemic we continue to face in America—and the urgent need for police reform!!”
The footage made public by Chicago’s Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) includes body-worn and third-party videos. The release followed the city’s corporation counsel, Celia Meza, meeting with attorneys for the Toledo family, Adeena Weiss Ortiz and Joel Hirschhorn.
“If you’re shooting an unarmed child with his hands in the air, it is an assassination,” Weiss Ortiz said Thursday. “The fact of the matter is that he was walking on the street and he was shot, shot unarmed. That could have been me in that street, that could have been my son in that street, that could have been any one of us in that alley.”
Chicago PD shot Adam Toledo with his hands in the air instantaneously after ordering him to do so—then lied about it.
They executed Adam, a boy who was not yet in high school.
Indict this officer, then pass a national use of force standard immediately. https://t.co/YVgN6JMHlN
— Julián Castro (@JulianCastro) April 15, 2021
They have spent almost two weeks smearing this child and his family. This is seven years after Laquan McDonald. Nothing has changed with this city of Chicago snd it’s enablers at the Chicago Tribune https://t.co/8wx08toQKR
— Keeanga-Yamahtta T. (@KeeangaYamahtta) April 15, 2021
“If you’re like me, and refuse to watch the video of 13-year-old Adam Toledo being murdered by Chicago police this is all you need to know: 1. His hands were up and empty. 2. He was shot in the chest, which was exposed because his hands were up and empty. This system killed him,” said Eva Maria Lewis of the Free Root Operation.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported:
Adam’s mother, Elizabeth Toledo, had viewed the video Monday at the Civilian Office of Police Accountability. She asked the agency to withhold the video from the public, but the agency said it was legally obligated to release it.
Toledo didn’t comment to reporters after she saw the video, but a lawyer for the family said the experience was “difficult and heartbreaking” and called for calm ahead of expected demonstrations following the release of the video.
Nelba Márquez-Greene, whose daughter was killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting, was among those who criticized the release of the videos:
I want you to understand that two things people need are a sense of control and a sense of safety.
How images, video, fundraisers, legacy, media, etc are handled after tragedy should be determined by family.
And just because something is legal doesn’t make it right.
— Nelba Márquez-Greene, LMFT (@Nelba_MG) April 15, 2021
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot called for calm on Thursday—a message that frustrated some people mourning the child’s death.
“As more and more people see this footage, I want to ask again that everyone tuning in right now think first and foremost about Adam Toledo, about what his family is enduring every single day since they learned of his passing,” Lightfoot said. “I also ask that each of us give them space to breathe.”
“Even as our understanding of this incident continues to evolve, this remains a complicated and nuanced story. And we all must proceed with deep empathy and calm and, importantly, peace,” she added, calling the footage “excruciating” to watch.
COPA also asked for “calm and peace” following the release as well as “patience” as the agency continues its “full, thorough, and objective investigation of the entire incident, which includes not only the officer’s use of deadly force but also the actions of other involved officers leading up to and following the deadly shooting to determine whether each officer’s actions complied with department policy directives and training.”
I wish these calls for peace were directed at the folks doing the killing instead of the folks grieving it.
Mayor Calls for Calm as Chicago Awaits Video of Police Fatally Shooting 13-Year-Old https://t.co/HAVF1EJcz3
— Phillip Atiba Goff (@DrPhilGoff) April 15, 2021
In a statement Thursday, ACLU of Illinois executive director Colleen Connell said that “the release of the body camera footage and other materials by Chicago police today cannot obscure one, central fact: a 13-year-old boy was shot and killed by those sworn to protect and serve our community. The video released today shows that police shot Adam Toledo even though his hands were raised in the air.”
“The pain of seeing this footage only adds to the pain and grief experienced by the Toledo family and the community. We join all those mourning this loss of life,” Connell continued. “The investigation of this death must be complete and transparent. The people of Chicago deserve answers about the events surrounding this tragic interaction. These answers must come through complete disclosure and public reporting, and not through careful assertions crafted by police and prosecutors.”
“Given the long, sad history of the CPD, public accountability must be the guide post for this moment,” she added. “The anger and frustration expressed by many in viewing the video is understandable and cannot be ignored. Now is a moment to truly embrace impacted communities in a critical discussion about needed changes to policing—including the adoption of a long-overdue foot chase policy that emerges from true, face-to-face community dialogue and real change.”
Racist police departments do not reform themselves. The Chicago police have been unscrupulous for a long time. They murdered Fred Hampton and tried to cover up the murder of Laquan McDonald, among others. They are drenched in cruelty. pic.twitter.com/39hp1Gbwkt
— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) April 15, 2021
Chicagoans planned protests and memorials for Thursday evening, sharing details about the events on social media:
Every single Chicagoan should be in the streets tonight to represent for Adam Toledo. This city shouldn’t sleep until Lori Lightfoot & David Brown resign. We gotta fight back for our kids, it’s time for new leadership RIGHT NOW. Bold change is needed RIGHT NOW!
— Ja'Mal Green (@JaymalGreen) April 15, 2021
Today at 7pm, south side, meet me in front of CPD Headquarters (35th & Michigan) to join with us in calling for a complete overhaul of the Chicago police department. It’s time for BOLD change! In solidarity with the spirit of Adam Toledo ✊🏾
— Ja'Mal Green (@JaymalGreen) April 15, 2021
Community members are paying our respects until 7 pic.twitter.com/7xxvlTKh3n
— Oso del Rio (@oso_campeon) April 15, 2021
Block Club Chicago detailed some of the footage released Thursday:
Body-camera footage shows an officer—10th District tactical unit Officer Eric Stillman, according to COPA—chasing Toledo through an alley, with Stillman yelling at Toledo to stop. Stillman catches up to Toledo, who appears to have stopped running near a gap in a fence between the alley and a church parking lot.
Video from a different angle appears to show Toledo toss the gun behind the fence moments before he is shot.
Stillman flashes a strobe flashlight at Toledo and says, “Hands! Show me your fucking hands!”
Immediately after commanding Toledo to show his hands, Stillman shot the boy at close distance. Toledo’s hands were raised when he was shot, the footage shows.
The outlet added that “the conclusion of the foot chase to the fatal shooting happened in only one second, said Brendan Deenihan, police department chief of detectives.”
WARNING—GRAPHIC CONTENT: The following video shows a police officer fatally shooting 13-year-old Adam Toledo.
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