An independent agency charged with investigating police misconduct in Chicago released body-camera videos showing the shooting that killed a seventh-grader two weeks ago.
CHICAGO (CN) — Body-camera video depicting a police shooting in Chicago that left a young teen dead was released to the public on Thursday.
Adam Toledo, 13, a seventh-grade student from the Little Village neighborhood, was shot and killed by a Chicago police officer in the early morning hours of Monday, March 29.
The Civilian Office of Police Accountability, an independent agency that investigates police shootings and misconduct in Chicago, revealed the video to the family earlier on Tuesday.
They asked COPA to delay releasing the video publicly, but the agency said in a statement that “while it is acutely sensitive to the family’s grief and their desire to avoid public release of materials related to Adam’s tragic death, COPA is mandated to comply with the city’s video release policy.”
In the unnamed officer’s body-camera footage released Thursday afternoon, he is seen arriving at the scene and running down an alley. He knocked over a man walking and continued chasing Toledo, who was running away.
The officer yelled for Toledo “drop it” and show his hands. Toledo eventually stopped running, pausing at a fence before turning to face the officer. The officer fired a single shot as Toledo is seen raising his arms to the side, causing him to fall down. It does not appear that Toledo fired at the officer.
Footage from a second officer’s body camera shows her placing the second suspect, who was knocked down, in custody before reaching Toledo. The shooting officer immediately called for help and began attempting to revive Toledo, assisted by multiple other officers who arrived at the scene.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, herself the mother of a 13-year-old daughter, addressed the city in an emotional press conference Thursday before the video’s release, several times choking back tears.
“A tragedy occurred that left a child dead, a mother in mourning and a family in crisis,” the mayor said, adding that “no parent should ever have a video broadcast widely of their child’s last moments.”
Lightfoot went on to address the city’s “systemic failures that we simply must fix.”
“There are too many damn guns on our streets,” she said, calling illegal firearms a “cancer” in the city.
Asking communities all over Chicago to help young people escape violence, the mayor said “sometimes the streets are as powerful and addictive as a narcotic.”
“We live in a city that is traumatized by a long history of police violence and misconduct,” Lightfoot admitted, but asked that the public “reserve judgment until COPA has done its work.”
“I urge each resident who cares and loves this city…let’s wait until we hear all of the facts,” the mayor said as she pleaded for peace in the coming days. “Think first and foremost about Adam Toledo and what his family is enduring every single day since they learned of his passing.”
Police, responding to gunfire detected with the department’s ShotSpotter technology, said the boy fled with another suspect, leading to an “armed confrontation.” A gun was recovered from the scene.
COPA said the officer fired one shot at Toledo in an alley around 2:30 a.m., hitting him in the chest, which was captured on his bodycam. He was immediately placed on administrative duty pending COPA’s investigation.
Ruben Roman, 21, was with Toledo at the time of the shooting and was arrested and initially charged with a misdemeanor for resisting an officer. Sources told ABC 7 Chicago that Roman is a known gang member.
Roman’s charges were later upped to felonies ranging from unlawful use of a weapon to child endangerment.
Prosecutors said after announcing new charges that Toledo had been told repeatedly to drop the gun he was holding, which was the same weapon fired by Roman earlier.
Adam’s mother, Elizabeth Toledo, told reporters two weeks ago that he was a “good boy” but often snuck out of the house when she was asleep and had just returned home that past Saturday after she filed a missing person report days earlier. He left the house again on the Sunday night before his death.
Toledo’s family issued a statement that week saying they were not even told about his death for two days, his mother thinking he was still missing after leaving Sunday.
“He did not deserve to die the way he did,” the statement added. “The Toledo family will seek justice for this reprehensible crime.”
Both Police Superintendent David O. Brown and Mayor Lightfoot immediately called for the release of the bodycam video as soon as possible.
“My greatest fear as the superintendent of the Chicago Police Department has been a deadly encounter between one of our own and a juvenile especially given the recent rise in violent crimes involving juveniles throughout our city. Unfortunately, this fear became a reality earlier this week,” Brown said in an April 1 statement. “Any loss of life is tragic, especially when it involves youth.”
COPA initially claimed it could not release the video of the incident without a court order because of the victim’s age. The agency changed direction April 2, announcing that it would release the “troubling video footage” to the public after allowing the family to view it first.
“COPA has determined that certain provisions of state law intended to protect the confidentiality of juvenile records do not prohibit the agency’s release of material related to its investigation” of the shooting, it said in a statement.
In a press conference from a neighborhood church last week, Lightfoot said the city must immediately create a new policy for police foot pursuits, which she said endanger everyone involved.
“It’s way past time that we reckon with this reality that happens literally multiple times everyday across many neighborhoods in our city, hundreds of times a year,” the mayor went on.
Brown, who said last Monday that he had viewed the video, detailed why officers had been so slow to notify Toledo’s family. The police chief said the boy’s fingerprints were not in the department’s database and he did not have any identification or a cellphone on him. Roman also gave police a fake name for the teen. Toledo was identified after police found his mother’s cancelled missing person report with a matching description from the week prior.
Chicago has an unfortunate history with coverups of police shootings, the city refusing for months in 2015 to release video of the police shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.
A court order eventually led to its release, sparking protests, calls for reform and an investigation into the CPD by the U.S. Department of Justice which found widespread racism and use of excessive force, and a lack of public trust in the police.
In 2019, a federal judge approved a consent decree between Chicago and Illinois to ensure proper reforms were made.