Richmond Times-Dispatch Weekend
In Chicago, outrage and grief over police shooting
CHICAGO — Viewers reacted with a mix of outrage and grief to newly released bodycam video that showed a Chicago police officer fatally shoot a 13-year-old last month less than a second after the boy appeared to drop a handgun, turn toward the officer and begin raising his hands.
Amid renewed appeals for policing reform, some called for the officer who shot Adam Toledo to be charged or fired. But for others, the footage released Thursday showed how difficult such decisions might be for prosecutors and police higher-ups, with an officer making a split-second decision after chasing a suspect down a dark alley while responding to a report about gunshots.
The killing of Toledo, who was Latino, by officer Eric Stillman, who is white, adds to already heightened tension over policing in Chicago and elsewhere in the U.S., particularly in Black and Latino communities. The videos and other investigative materials were released at the same time as the trial in Minneapolis of former officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd and the recent police killing of another Black man, Daunte Wright, in one of that city’s suburbs.
In Chicago, a demonstration was planned for Friday to call for “Justice for Adam Toledo,” after small groups of protesters gathered at a police station and marched downtown Thursday night.
“The community is outraged and the family is in pain over what we now know was an unnecessary taking of their loved one’s life,” said Maggie Rivera, who heads the Illinois chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens, which called for Stillman to be fired.
Whether Stillman is charged is up to the Cook County state’s attorney’s office, which will get the Civilian Office of Police Accountability’s report after the independent board completes its investigation.
Stillman was responding with other officers to reports of shots fired in Little Village, a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood of the city’s southwest side, at around 3 a.m. on March 29. Nineteen seconds elapsed from when Stillman got out of his squad car to when he shot Toledo. His jumpy, nighttime bodycam footage shows him chasing Toledo on foot down an alley for several seconds and yelling “Police! Stop! Stop
right [expletive] now!”
As the teen slows down, Stillman yells “Hands! Hands! Show me your [expletive] hands!”
Toledo then turns toward the camera, Stillman yells “Drop it!” and midway between repeating that command, he opens fire and Toledo falls down. While approaching the wounded boy, Stillman radios in for an ambulance. He can be heard imploring Toledo to “stay awake,” and as other officers arrive, an officer says he can’t feel a heartbeat and begins administering CPR.
Police say the boy had a handgun on him before the shooting, and Stillman’s footage shows him shining a light on a handgun on the ground near Toledo after he shot him.
Stillman’s attorney, Tim Grace, said Toledo left the officer no choice but to shoot.
“The juvenile offender had the gun in his right hand ... looked at the officer which could be interpreted as attempting to acquire a target and began to turn to face the officer attempting to swing the gun in his direction,” Grace wrote in an email. “At this point the officer was faced with a life threatening and deadly force situation. All prior attempts to de-escalate and gain compliance with all of the officer’s lawful orders had failed.”
But Adeena Weiss-Ortiz, an attorney for Toledo’s family, told reporters the bodycam footage and other videos “speak for themselves.” She said it’s irrelevant whether Toledo was holding a gun before he turned toward the officer.
“If he had a gun, he tossed it,” she said. “The officer said, ‘Show me your hands.’ He complied. He turned around.”