Residents of the city of Chicago are reeling following the release of a police bodycam video that shows the moments leading up to the death of 13-year-old Adam Toledo. The camera which was mounted on the police officer captured the teen with his hands in the air, above his head when he was shot by the officer.
The footage which has received national coverage was described as “excruciating” by Lori Lightfoot, Chicago’s Mayor, at a press conference ahead of its release. While it received widespread coverage on Thursday, local reporters in the city, as well as residents, have been yearning for details of the young boy’s death for nearly a month now after it was announced on March 29.
“There’s no evidence whatsoever” that Adam fired at cops before he himself was killed, Lightfoot said in the press conference.
“Simply put, we failed Adam,” she admitted.
The incident, which sparked protests across the city, once again pushed the topic of police violence to the fore, as jurors in Minneapolis hear a murder case against a former officer for the death of George Floyd. While many following that trial also struggle to digest the police shooting of another man of color, Daunte Wright, that occurred Sunday in a Minneapolis suburb, leading this week to a manslaughter charge for officer Kim Potter.
The officer who shot Adam in Chicago has not been identified.
The main video is from the officer’s perspective as he is driving to a scene following reports of multiple gunshots in the area around 2:30 AM. After arriving, the officer exits his vehicle and chases a subject down an alley. “Police, stop. Stop right f***ing now,” the officer is heard yelling as Adam appears to stop near a fence at the end of the alley and turn toward the officer with his hands raised in the air.
“Hey show me your f***ing hands, drop it, drop it,” the officer says before firing one shot as Adam turns and puts his hands up.
In the footage, it appears that both of Adam’s hands are empty at the time of the shooting. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
“I would just say, and I’ve said this to a number of people on my staff … as a mom, this is not something you want children to see,” Mayor Lightfoot said of the footage released by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA).
A man who was with Adam, 21-year-old Ruben Roman, allegedly fired the shots that attracted police, according to prosecutors, and he is charged with reckless discharge of a firearm and unlawful use of a weapon by a felon, as well as child endangerment and violating probation, reports the Sun-Times. He is being held on $150,000 bail. His plea has yet to be announced.
Police said a 9MM Ruger handgun was found along the fence next to where Adam was shot, according to WGN TV.
Adam Toledo Was Killed in Little Village, a Predominately Latino Neighborhood on Chicago’s West Side.
All cities contain neighborhoods with their own distinct characteristics but none are as pronounced as the various communities in Chicago. It’s been called a “City of Neighborhoods” as historic redlining and segregation have largely concentrated marginalized communities on the South and West Sides of the city. Even today, the city remains one of the most segregated in all of the US.
Adam Toledo lived in Little Village (La Villita). It is a gateway community for many immigrants who arrive in the city to work and live. The residents we spoke with are taking the news particularly hard.
“Heartbroken but not because my family is from Little Village,” a musician and teacher, who goes by the name Mia Joy professionally, shared. “Heartbroken but not because I have students his age. Heartbroken because it never seems to end,” she said of police brutality in the city.
She encouraged her followers on social media to attend a protest and vigils in Adam’s honor which are set to take place on Friday evening.
A police officer shot and killed a 13-year-old who stopped & put his hands up when the officer said to. A boy whose body was fully open & vulnerable to an officer’s weapon. What we see is exactly what happens when police are taught that their lives matter more than anyone else’s.— Alderman Byron Sigcho Lopez for the 25th Ward (@SigchoFor25) April 15, 2021
A Chicago Public Library employee, who did not want to be named, said she is “beyond” upset. She described to us an email the City of Chicago sent to all city employees ahead of the release of the footage. The email allegedly defends the Chicago Police Department actions. “Do not send this to me ever but especially in the middle of my workday,” the librarian said of the email.
She is not alone in her outrage over the city’s handling of the situation. Alderman Byron Sigcho Lopez who represents neighboring constituents to Little Village voiced his concerns at a City Council meeting Thursday. The meeting about affordable housing policies was underway when the alderman interrupted it shortly after the police footage was made public.
He said he was appalled by the “dehumanization” the City Council was showing by continuing the meeting in the wake of the tragic video, WTTW reported. The meeting went into recess following his comments.
“What we see is exactly what happens when police are taught that their lives matter more than anyone else’s,” the alderman later tweeted.
Calls to “defund the police” are being chanted by activists across the city. However, others suggest a more measured approach to policing reform would better serve residents.
“It is crucial for the community to have a voice in reforming its police department. While the CPD has made some progress, there is still much work to be done,” Maggie Hickey, an independent monitor of a consent decree, said in a statement.
The decree issued by a court was established to reform policies of CPD for two years ago. The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois said two years into the consent decree, Chicago’s “Black and brown neighborhoods are seeing little, if any, change” in policing.
Andrew is a Chicago-based writer who enjoys finding the best of the internet, obsessively making lists, and cooking for friends. After studying Film and Art History, he developed a deep love for both topics. Celebrity news, pop culture, and stories that bring people together are his passions.
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