CHICAGO (CN) — Shortly before 2:40 a.m. on March 29, 2021, Chicago police officer Eric Stillman fatally shot an unarmed 13-year-old Hispanic boy named Adam Toledo in the chest.
Stillman will not face any state criminal charges for killing the teen, the Cook County State's Attorney's Office announced Tuesday, but the officer and city were hit with a civil lawsuit filed by Toledo's parents Elizabeth and Marco Toledo over their son's death.
The suit filed late Tuesday morning in Cook County Circuit Court accuses Stillman of battery, causing a wrongful death and inflicting emotional distress on both the parents as well as Toledo himself in his final moments. It further claims the white officer acted with disregard for the Chicago Police Department's own guidelines on lethal force and on how to de-escalate a charged situation.
"Adam's death was the direct and proximal result of Stillman's intentional and deadly act of firing his service weapon, his willful, wanton and reckless disregard for CPD policies/procedures, his duty to preserve the safety of Adam and the community, and the basic sanctity of human life," the 24-page complaint states.
Stillman and his partner Corina Gallegos first confronted Toledo and 21-year-old Ruben Roman in response to a gunshot alert from the city's ShotSpotter gunshot detection system. It indicated eight gunshots had been fired near the pair's location in the city's heavily Latino La Villita neighborhood, prompting Stillman and Gallegos to respond. After tackling Roman, Stillman chased after Adam while Gallegos stayed behind.
Stillman's body cam footage of the shooting was publicly released by Chicago's Civilian Office of Police Accountability two weeks after Toledo's death. It shows Stillman running down an alley, chasing the fleeing teenager. Eventually Stillman yells for Toledo to “drop it” and show his hands, suspecting the teen had a gun. Toledo stops running next to a fence and turns to face his pursuer, arms up. Stillman then fires a single shot at Toledo, who falls to the ground.
News of the shooting rocked Chicago after the video's release. Less than a year after the murder of Black man George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, here was another white police officer killing a person of color – and worse, a 13-year-old who had his hands up when the cop shot him at close range. Though the video does appear to show that Toledo had a handgun as Stillman suspected, he dropped it by the fence just before Stillman shot him. Investigators later recovered a 9mm semi-auto pistol with an empty magazine from the scene.
"Adam was complying, and he was shot," Joel Hirschhorn, one of the Toledos' attorneys, said.
Hirschhorn said that the Toledos chose to file the civil suit on Tuesday in response to the State's Attorney's Office deciding not to pursue criminal prosecution against Stillman.
"[The Toledos] are terribly distraught... apparently there is a great wall of protection around [Stillman]," Hirschhorn said.
According to a release put out by Cook County State's Attorney Kimberly Foxx on Tuesday morning, her office chose not to pursue criminal charges due in part to the extremely short time period - less than one second - that passed between Toledo dropping his weapon and his turning to fully face Stillman.
"Officer Stillman saw the weapon in Toledo’s right hand and fired one round which struck Toledo as he completed his turn and raised his right hand which no longer held the firearm. The timing of these actions was less than one second," the statement said.
The prosecutor also opined that "the use of deadly force by Officer Stillman against Toledo was reasonable under the totality of the circumstances."
“We are profoundly disappointed, as is the Toledo family, to learn that the Cook County State’s Attorney has declined to prosecute Officer Eric Stillman," an official statement put out by Hirschhorn and the Toledos' other attorney Adeena Weiss Ortiz said. "Despite that decision, we will continue fighting for Adam and have filed our civil complaint seeking monetary damages against Officer Stillman and the City of Chicago in our effort to get justice for Adam and the Toledo family."
Though the statement and the suit itself call for monetary damages, Hirschhorn said it would be impossible for the Toledos to ever recover the worth of a lost loved one, especially a child.
"How do you measure the loss of a child?" Hirschhorn asked.
Read the Top 8
Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.