Chicago, IL

Irresponsibility of Chicago Police Department in Adam Toledo Shooting to Save Face Creating More Unrest

Natalie Frank, Ph.D.

Recent body video of Adam Toledo shooting by police cannot be made out to support Police explanation and is likely to cause more unrest and rioting.

Protestors take a knee during a peaceful demonstration in downtown Chicago, demanding justice for Daunte Wright and Adam Toledo, who were shot dead by police.

Chicago officials on Thursday afternoon publicly released a graphic body-camera video showing a policeman shooting and killing a 13-year-old boy while he appeared to be raising his hands in an alley. The shooting occurred more than two weeks ago.

Chicago, and likely much of the rest of the country have been waiting for the video to be released. It has been held back because the family needed to see it first and Chicago's Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) held the video back from the family in order to collect other material including third-party video, OEMC transmissions, ShotSpotter recordings and other reports for them to review.

The family had access to all of the material last night and it was announced that it would all be released to the public today including a slow motion version of the tape. However, as of now all that has been released is a small segment of the tape which is too choppy and unclear to be able to make out much of anything other than the voice of the cop who shot the teen.

The police say that you can see the boy turn towards his right towards the officer with a gun drawn in his right hand. Here is the tape that has been released to the public (Please note- it is very graphic and very disturbing. If you are easily triggered or have a trauma history it might not be good for you to watch it):

The police say that you really have to watch the tape frame by frame to see him turn around with the gun in his hand which he then proceded to throw.

However, what people have seen in the video, what can be seen is 13-year-old Toledo running from Officer Eric Stillman through an alley, then obeying the officers commands to stop and raise his hands. The officer clearly says, “Stop it,” not “Drop it,” meaning he did not see a gun in the boys hands at the time.

Despite the police saying that the youth had a gun in his hand when he turned towards the officer, surveillance video from a different angle appears to show Toledo tossing the gun behind a fence moments before he was shot. It’s difficult to understand how the police office did not see him throw it while still running, before he slowed down and turned with his hands up.

Yet as the teenager raised his hands, Stillman shot him once in his chest at close distance. Toledo does not appear to have been holding a weapon when he was shot, and does not raise, point or fire a weapon at officers. Toledo collapsed into the parking lot after being shot and died at the scene.

Toledo with his arms raised seconds before being shot:

Body cam footage of Toldedo turned to the officer with both hands raised, holding nothing.

Right before the videos were released, a spokeswoman for the State’s Attorneys Office said the prosecutor was incorrect when he said in court on Saturday that Toledo was holding a gun in his right hand when he was shot. That prosecutor “failed to fully inform himself before speaking in court,” spokeswoman Sarah Sinovic said, adding: “The video speaks for itself.”

The revelation that Toledo did not appear to be armed and had his arms raised when he was killed infuriated residents and activists, renewing calls to defund and overhaul the Chicago Police Department.

After viewing the footage Thursday of a Chicago police officer fatally shooting 13-year-old Adam Toledo, residents, aldermen and community activists shared outrage. The city of Chicago is preparing for possible unrest and rioting in the wake of the video’s release. More police have been assigned downtown and large trucks are prepared to block neighborhood commercial areas to protect businesses from looting like that experienced last summer.

There have been many comments regarding the incident from city and state leaders. Governor J.B. Pritzker made a remarkable statement that was not aimed at supporting the police as usually happens in such cases.

“As a father, I know to my core that Adam Toledo’s family is living a parent’s worst nightmare. My heart goes out to all who love him,” Governor Pritzker said. “Parents deserve neighborhoods that will nurture their kids. Children deserve to be safe. Communities deserve to live with hope for the future.

Adam Toledo, a 13-year-old child, was shot to death. This is a moment that calls for justice for our children and accountability in all our public institutions. The state of Illinois is committed to this work, whether it is transforming our justice system or investing in communities to create durable and long-term progress.”

In another strongly worded statement, leaders from the MacArthur Justice Center remarked, “A 13-year-old boy was murdered by the Chicago Police Department. The state-sanctioned shooting of a child is not only unimaginably tragic, but a reflection of how Black and Latinx people and communities are policed in this city, every day.”

This situation is quickly turning into a pressure cooker in Chicago. The shooting would never failed to have caused a certain amount of outrage. But the police and Civilian Office of Police Accountability gave inaccurate information to other officials and to the public which was visibly contradicted when the video footage was released. The shooting, has been mired in conflicting, vague and shifting details offered by Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Supt. David Brown, the Civilian Office of Police Accountability and the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office for more than two weeks.

This type of highly sensitive and upsetting event cannot be handled this way if the city is to avoid dangerous reactions such as the rioting that happened over the entire summer of 2020 in response to the Floyd shooting. We now have the Chauvin trial, the killing of Duante Wright by a police officer who mistook her gun for a taser, and the Toledo shooting resulting in the death of an unarmed 13 year old.

Those who were in control of releasing information about the case had a responsibility to consult with others about how best to do it in the most transparent manner possible so as not to set off another wave of riots in Chicago. Yet the confusion and misinformation which was then shown to be false on video was not the way to handle the situation.

At this time the investigation is ongoing. Once COPA has completed its investigation, it will send recommendations on what punishments to levy, or not, against Stillman and other officers. The agency could recommend that no action be taken or could suggest that Stillman and the other officers be fired, among other options. There are also civil proceedings that could be brought by the family. The police union has hired a lawyer to defend Stillman, the officer who shot Toledo. Stillman has not been charged with any crime at this point. Chicago Mayor Lightfoot has defended the officer.

Protests and demonstrations have been ongoing since the release of the tape and more are planned for today and the weekend. A large-scale gathering is planned for 5:30 p.m. Friday at Logan Square Park.

The Illinois ACLU sums up the current situation:

“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 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.”

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