Video of fatal Chicago police shooting of 13-year-old released
A 21-year-old man has been charged with firing the gun that initially brought police to the area
By Jeremy Gorner
CHICAGO — Video of Adam Toledo’s fatal shooting by a Chicago police officer was released to the public Thursday afternoon, more than two weeks after the 13-year-old was killed following a foot chase in a Little Village alley, igniting anger in the neighborhood and leaving the city on edge.
The materials were published on the website of the Civilian Office of Police Accountability shortly after 2:30 p.m.
They were expected to include images from at least one responding officer’s body-worn camera. COPA had announced Wednesday it would make the video public, along with third-party video, police radio recordings and police reports.
Toledo was shot in the chest in the early morning hours of March 29, police have said, after officers responded to gunshots near 24th Street and Sawyer Avenue. The video was expected to show the moments leading up to the teen’s death, as well as the shooting itself.
The release came after Mayor Lori Lightfoot held a press conference Thursday on the video, where she called it “excruciating” to watch.
The mayor grew emotional as she talked about the city’s ongoing struggles with gun violence, saying “We can’t have that be what young people experience in our city.”
“Simply put, we failed Adam,” she said.
The mayor and lawyers for Toledo’s family also renewed a call for calm Thursday in the hours before the images were made public.
“We acknowledge that the release of this video is the first step in the process toward the healing of the family, the community and our city,” the joint statement said. “We understand that the release of this video will be incredibly painful and elicit an emotional response to all who view it, and we ask that people express themselves peacefully.”
The city’s top lawyer, Celia Meza, met with Toledo family attorneys Adeena Weiss Ortiz and Joel Hirschhorn on Tuesday, according to the statement, and they agreed “that all material should be released, including a slowed-down compilation of the events of March 29 that resulted in the tragic death of 13-year-old Adam Toledo.”
A 21-year-old man, Ruben Roman, has been charged with carrying and firing the gun that apparently brought police to the area. The gun was recovered near where Toledo was shot, and investigators had matched it with cartridge casings found at the scene where Roman had been firing, authorities have said.
The video was shown to the Toledo family Tuesday night by COPA officials, who are tasked with investigating police shootings in the city. Officials delayed the public release of the material, which is required by city policy, at the request of the family.
The investigation into whether the officer followed department use of force rules is in its early stages, officials said this week.
“COPA is committed to completing a full, thorough and objective investigation of the entire incident which includes not only the officer’s use of deadly force but also the actions of other involved officers leading up to and following the deadly shooting to determine whether each officers’ actions complied with (Police) Department policy directives and training” a COPA statement read.
As a matter of routine, COPA refers its police shooting investigations to the Cook County state’s attorney’s office for a review of whether criminal charges could be warranted. COPA may also refer the shooting cases to federal prosecutors if COPA suspects the civil rights of the person shot by the officer were violated.
Cook County State’s Atty. Kim Foxx’s office has declined to comment on the case. The U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago indicated it was aware of the situation but a spokesman declined to comment further.
Meanwhile, Chicago was left to absorb the images of Toledo’s shooting during an already tense week where national issues related to policing and race were already at the forefront. The trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for the killing of George Floyd was in its final stages, and another officer in a Minneapolis-area community, Brooklyn Center, was charged with second-degree manslaughter for this week’s fatal shooting of 20-year-old Daunte Wright during a traffic stop.
Chicago police have been making preparations in case of any civil unrest resulting from the video release, officials said. Sources said several specialized Chicago police units were preparing this week for possible major protests or disturbances.
Roman was in court Saturday for a bond hearing after being charged with firing a gun as he stood next to Toledo that night. He was charged with felonies including child endangerment, aggravated unlawful use of a weapon and reckless discharge of a firearm after being arrested Friday.
The Toledo family left COPA’s offices Tuesday evening without commenting on the details of the video. Their lawyer’s office released a statement Tuesday night saying attorneys there would continue their own investigation.
“The experience was extremely difficult and heartbreaking for everyone present and especially for Adam’s family,” the statement said of the video viewing.
The family was expected to address the media Thursday afternoon.
After Toledo was shot, police were not able to identify him immediately because he was not carrying a cell phone or an identification, officials have said.
When police questioned Roman the night of the shooting, he at first gave a false name for Toledo, then a few hours later denied knowing who he was with, authorities said.
Detectives then searched missing persons reports from the neighborhood to see if any matched Toledo’s description. They found one and contacted the family March 31. Toledo was identified that day by his family, and the next day the department confirmed his age and the Cook County medical examiner’s office released his name.
News that such a young person had been fatally shot by police touched off immediate tension and protests in Little Village, with calls for the release of the footage, arrest of the officer and massive reforms to policing — including the now common call for the department be stripped of funding all together.
But there were also more quiet, somber vigils for Toledo, who was remembered as a cherished part of his extended family.
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