A 13-year-old Chicago boy appears to have dropped a handgun and begun raising his hands less than a second before a police officer shot and killed him last month, footage released Thursday under community pressure shows.
A still frame taken from Chicago Police officer Eric Stillman’s jumpy nighttime footage appears to show that Adam Toledo wasn’t holding anything and had his hands up, or partially up, when the officer shot him in the chest on March 29. Police say the teen had a handgun on him that morning, and the body camera footage shows the officer shining a light on a handgun on the ground near Toledo after he shot him.
The footage shows that it took 19 seconds from when the officer exited his squad car to when he shot the teen. After getting out of the vehicle, the officer chases Toledo on foot down an alley for several seconds and yells “Police! Stop! Stop right f—ing now!”
As the teen slows down, the officer yells “Hands! Hands! Show me your f—ing hands!”
Toledo then turns toward the camera, the officer yells “Drop it!” and midway between repeating that command, he opens fire and the teen drops to the ground.
While approaching the wounded Toledo, the officer radios for an ambulance. He can be heard imploring the boy to “stay awake,” and as other officers arrive, the officer who apparently fired the shot says he can’t feel a heartbeat and begins administering CPR.
WATCH | Warning: This video contains graphic content. Body-cam video shows the moments leading up to the shooting of Adam Toledo:
In a lengthy email to The Associated Press, Stillman’s attorney Tim Grace said Toledo left the officer no choice but to shoot.
“The juvenile offender had the gun in his right hand … looked at the officer which could be interpreted as attempting to acquire a target and began to turn to face the officer attempting to swing the gun in his direction,” Grace wrote. “At this point the officer was faced with a life threatening and deadly force situation. All prior attempts to deescalate and gain compliance with all of the officer’s lawful orders had failed.”
But Adeena Weiss-Ortiz, an attorney for Toledo’s family, told reporters after the footage and other videos were released that they “speak for themselves.”
“Adam, during the last second of his life, did not have a gun in his hand. The officer screamed at him, ‘Show me your hands.’ Adam complied,” she said.
Weiss-Ortiz said it’s irrelevant whether Toledo was holding a gun before he turned toward the officer.
“If he had a gun, he tossed it. The officer said show me your hands, he complied. He turned around,” she said.
Video originally withheld from public
The Chicago Police Department typically doesn’t release the names of officers involved in such shootings this early on in an investigation, but Stillman’s name, age and race — he’s 34 and white — were listed in the investigation reports released Thursday.
Weiss-Ortiz said that she looked into Stillman’s record but found no prior disciplinary issues.
The Civilian Office of Police Accountability, an independent board that investigates all police-involved shootings in Chicago, initially said it couldn’t release the video because it involved the shooting of a minor, but it changed course after the mayor and police superintendent called for the video’s release.
The release comes in the wake of the traffic-stop shooting of Daunte Wright by a police officer in a Minneapolis suburb that has sparked protests as the broader Minneapolis area nervously awaits the outcome of the trial for Derek Chauvin, the first of four officers charged in George Floyd’s death.
Shortly before the board posted the video and other investigation materials on its website, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot urged the public to remain peaceful and reserve judgment until the board can complete its investigation.
Mayor calls video ‘excruciating’
Choking up at times during a news conference, Lightfoot decried the city’s history of police violence, especially in Black and brown communities, and said too many young people are left vulnerable to “systemic failures that we simply must fix.”
“We live in a city that is traumatized by a long history of police violence and misconduct,” the mayor said. “So 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 are feeling that all too familiar surge of outrage and pain.
“It is even clearer that trust between our community and law enforcement is far from healed and remains badly broken.”
Asked whether the video showed if the teen had fired on the officer, Lightfoot said she had seen no evidence that he had. She described watching the jumpy footage as “excruciating.”
“As a mom, this is not something you want children to see,” said the mayor. She declined to say if the footage showed whether the teen was holding a gun when he was shot, but she called a prosecutor’s assertion at a recent hearing that Toledo had a gun when he was shot “correct.”
Police said officers responded to an area of the predominantly Latino and Black neighbourhood Little Village on Chicago’s West Side before dawn on the morning of the shooting after a police technology detected gun shots there.
The teen, who was Latino, and a 21-year-old man fled on foot when confronted by police, and an officer shot the teen once in the chest following a foot chase during what the department described as an armed confrontation.
Police said a handgun the boy had been carrying was recovered at the scene. The 21-year-old man was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of resisting arrest.
Toledo family urges people to remain peaceful
In addition to posting the officer’s body camera footage of the shooting, COPA released other investigation materials, including video captured by a third party, arrest reports and audio recordings of shots being fired in the area that led police to respond.
The board didn’t say what the video shows or give any other information about the investigation.
The Toledo family, meanwhile, issued a statement urging people to “remain peaceful.”
“We have heard reports in the media that more protests are planned today, and while we have no direct knowledge of such events, we pray that for the sake of our city, people remain peaceful to honor Adam’s memory and work constructively to promote reform,” the family’s statement said.
The Chicago Police Department has a long history of brutality and racism that has fomented mistrust among the city’s many Black and Hispanic residents. Adding to that mistrust is the city’s history of suppressing damning police videos.
The city fought for months to keep the public from seeing the 2014 video of a white officer shooting Black teen Laquan McDonald 16 times, killing him. The officer was eventually convicted of murder.
The city also tried to stop a TV news station from broadcasting video of a botched 2019 police raid in which an innocent, naked, Black woman wasn’t allowed to put on clothes until after she was handcuffed.