Protests have again begun to spark on the streets of Chicago following the release of police body camera footage related to the death of Adam Toledo. The 13-year-old was shot and killed in the early morning hours of Monday, March 29, following a foot pursuit in which a CPD officer fired his weapon once.
Controversy surrounding the case began almost immediately, with Toledo’s age making the case stand out in the minds of online activists. Despite the growing concerns over the shooting, Chicago Police Communications Director Tom Ahern was among a list of officials who initially described the case as an “armed confrontation.”
Mayor Lori Lightfoot in the days following the shooting also condemned the adults in young Toledo’s life for allowing him to travel down the wrong path.
“Let’s be clear. An adult put a gun in a child’s hand. A young and impressionable child. And one who should not have been provided with lethal force. A weapon that could and did irreparably change the course of his life,” Lightfoot said.
“This happens way too often in our city. And it’s way past time for us to say, ‘No more.’ I have directed the superintendent and the chief of detectives to use every resource to track down the origins of this gun — through tracing, fingerprinting and DNA and any other means — and to find the person responsible for giving it to Adam. I want to bring that person or persons responsible for putting that gun in Adam’s hands to justice.”
Despite much of the initial focus from elected officials and the formal police narrative focusing on Toledo being armed, body camera footage released April 15 showed the 13-year-old with both hands empty and raised at the time the fatal shot was fired.
Unfortunately, that is not how the video was described by Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney James Murphy to a judge during a bond hearing for 21-year-old Ruben Roman.
Roman was with Toledo when he was shot and has been charged with felony Reckless Discharge of a Firearm, felony Unlawful Use of a Weapon by a Felon, and felony Endangerment of a Child.
“In court last week, an attorney in our office failed to fully present the facts surrounding the death of a 13-year-old boy,” Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx spokeswoman Sarah Sinovic said in a statement. “We have put that individual on leave and are conducting an internal investigation into the matter.”
Assistant State’s Attorney James Murphy told Judge Susana Ortiz that Toledo had a gun in his right hand a moment before he was shot.
“The officer tells [Adam] to drop it as [Adam] turns towards the officer. [Adam] has a gun in his right hand,” Murphy said. “The officer fires one shot at [Adam], striking him in the chest. The gun that [Adam] was holding landed against the fence a few feet away.”
The same lawyer was involved in the case of Jeremy “Mohawk” Johnson. That case has also picked up much attention following Superintendent David Brown singling him out in a news conference following unrest at a summer protest that led to Johnson being placed on house arrest, and his documenting the problems with the technology used for the past eight months gaining some national attention.
Many top officials have commented on the case following the release of the Toledo video, with the Black and Latino Illinois Senate caucuses releasing a joint statement.
“We want to send our love to Adam Toledo’s family, friends, and his community. The killing of 13-year-old Adam Toledo should’ve never happened. This is an example of our society’s failure, a byproduct of the systemic disadvantages that impact communities of color,” the statement reads.
“Everyone deserves to have the comfort of safety and dignity in their life. There were systemic failures leading up to his killing and we are perpetually fighting to improve these systems for our communities. We owe it to Adam, his family, and our communities to fight for the comfort every one of us deserves.”
Despite the release of the footage changing the facts of the case for some, as well as many in the Black community joining the calls for justice, 15th Ward Alderman Raymond Lopez has continued to push what many call a deceptive message surrounding the shooting, laying blame at the feet of “gang culture,” and Roman, who he was accompanying.
“SJW’s only blame police for the Toledo shooting. How long will those seeking “justice” remain silent about the gangs actively replacing a child’s family? Gangs send our youth down a path with a fatal end,” Lopez said in an online statement. “Silent gang enablers share responsibility. Demand ‘justice’ from them too!”
“Adam, during his last second of life, did not have a gun in his hand. The officer screamed at him, ‘Show me your hands!’ Adam complied, turned around. His hands were empty when he was shot in the chest at the hands of the officer,” Toledo family lawyer Adeena Weiss-Ortiz said in a statement.
Even with the media attention and questions that have been launched surrounding this case and the type of person that Adam Toledo was, his family still is remembering him as a child who had joy and fun.
“Being the oldest of the boys, I have always wanted better for my little brothers and my older sister,” Marco Toledo, Adam’s older brother said. He had recently bought a house outside Chicago and was looking forward to having his little brothers over for sleepovers.
He said his last memory of his younger brother is of him, “all happy,” jumping around as he ate pizza.
Amid the ongoing investigation, Marco Toledo defended his younger brother, saying that he “wasn’t a bad kid like everyone says he was.”
“Us being little kids, we all made mistakes. Why? Because no teenager and no human is perfect,” he said. “No matter what, we all have our flaws and mistakes we have made as kids and still do till this day.
No matter what people say, kids will be kids and will make mistakes, but will learn from them—something my little brother didn’t get the chance to do.”