Chicago Police Fatally Shot Adam Toledo, a 13-Year-Old Boy

Elizabeth and Adam Toledo.
Photo: GoFundMe

In the days after Chicago police shot a 13-year-old boy, his mother tried to figure out how her son ended up dead. While law enforcement claimed That the boy, Adam Toledo, died in an “armed confrontation” with the police in the early hours of March 29th was sparsely communicated to his mother about Adam’s final moments.

“I just want to know what really happened to my baby,” his mother Elizabeth said at a press conference in early April.

Immediately after the shooting, the case was scrutinized. Not only did it take the police days to identify Adam and inform his family that he had been killed, but the authorities initially declined calls to reveal the body cam footage from the incident. On April 15, officials finally released a video of the shooting, showing Toledo had his hands in the air when he was shot.

Here’s what we know about the case.

When police visited the Toledo home on Chicago’s West Side on the afternoon of March 31, Elizabeth believed she was responding to a missing person report she submitted through Adam days earlier, the Washington Post reports. Elizabeth hadn’t seen her son – one of five children – since the evening of March 28, the day they attended a memorial service for a relative, she told the Chicago Sun-Times. Instead, authorities told Elizabeth that they believed her son had been fatally shot days earlier and asked her to identify his body at the Cook County’s medical examiner’s office.

Elizabeth was later told that Adam died in an “armed confrontation” with police in Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood at around 2:30 am on March 29, as police responded to reports of gunfire. At the scene, officials said they “watched two men in a nearby alley,” one of whom was armed and followed them on foot. One of the people was Ruben Roman Jr., 21, who the prosecution has since fired the shots brought by the local officials. He is now charged with endangering children, exacerbated illicit use of a gun and reckless dismissal of a firearm for his role in the fateful events of that night. The other was Toledo, who was shot once in the chest and pronounced dead at the scene – and whom the police did not identify for days. (Police blame Ruben for the delay, who allegedly gave Toledo a false name.)

Following the shootings, activists and the Toledo family requested the release of body camera footage. “At this point in time, the family does not have all the information,” said Adeena J. Weiss Ortiz, attorney who represents the family, at a press conference. “All we know at this point is that a 13-year-old boy has died.”

While the Civilian Office of Police Accountability confirmed that the shooting was recorded with a body camera, it initially refused to make the footage available to the public, stating that due to Toledo’s age, doing so would violate a state law called as Juvenile Court Act is known. However, the agency said it would release more evidence about the case – including emergency calls and police reports – within 60 days of the shooting.

The agency’s decision to withhold evidence, which is as important as video footage, met with violent uproar. Calls to share the footage increased and were quickly supported by city and police officers. “We need to post all relevant videos ASAP,” said Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot in a series of tweets, adding that “transparency and speed are key.” Chicago Police Superintendent David O. Brown also called for the footage to be released.

On April 2, the Civil Accountability Bureau responded to public demands and announced that it would release the video.

On April 15, the Civilian Police Responsibility Office, after first being shared with Toledo’s family, released the body cam footage of the shooting, as well as additional third-party surveillance and a slowed-down compilation of events. In a statement from attorneys, Toledo’s family said the experience of viewing the footage was “heartbreaking”. Their reaction was confirmed by Lightfoot, who described the videos as “incredibly difficult to see” at a press conference prior to their release. (She also called the case “complicated and nuanced” and asked people to respond “peacefully,” which has generated heavy criticism.)

In the body cam video of the policeman who fired the shot, the policeman identifies himself as police while chasing Toledo and demanding that he “stop fucking immediately”. Toledo appears to be obeying when he comes to a stop and turns to face the officer with both hands. The officer then yells, “Hey, show me your damn hands, let them fall”, even though Toledo’s hands are already raised and he is not holding a gun, as the prosecution had previously claimed. Then the officer shoots the boy, who falls to the ground, where he is later pronounced dead.

(Police claim that a gun was recovered a few meters from Toledo’s place of death. Footage previously checked by prosecutors shows that the gun on the ground was the same one Roman had fired earlier that night.)

Little is now known about the police officer suspected of fatally shooting Toledo, who has not yet been publicly identified. According to a Chicago PD press release, the officer was given “routine administrative duties” for 30 days.

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