The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Video of officer shooting boy, 13, spurs grief, rage
Whether policeman is charged is up to state’s attorney office.
Newly released video that shows a Chicago police officer fatally shoot a 13-year-old will be key evidence when prosecutors consider a case against the officer and are confronted with both the emotions surrounding the chilling footage and legal precedent that makes it difficult to bring charges against law enforcement.
Video of last month’s encounter was released Thursday and provoked an outpouring of grief and outrage. It shows Officer Eric Stillman shooting Adam Toledo less than a second after the boy drops a handgun, turns toward Stillman and begins raising his hands.
Some viewers have called for Stillman to be charged or fired. But for others, the video shows how difficult such decisions might be for prosecutors and police higher-ups, with an officer making a quick decision to shoot after chasing a suspect down a dark alley while responding to a report about gunshots.
Whether Stillman is charged will be 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.
Several legal experts said Friday that they don’t think Stillman could be charged under criteria established by a landmark 1989 Supreme Court ruling on the use of force by police, though another said prosecutors might see enough evidence to justify an involuntary manslaughter charge and let a jury decide guilt or innocence.
The killing of Toledo, who was Latino, by 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 against the backdrop of 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 Toledo, after small groups of protesters gathered at a police station and marched downtown Thursday night. Some downtown businesses boarded up their windows in the expectation there could be unrest, but the Thursday protest was peaceful.
Although Mayor Lori Lightfoot implored the public to keep the peace and allow the police review board complete its investigation, some had already made up their minds about what happened to Toledo, whose mother described him as a curious and goofy seventh grader who loved animals, riding his bike and junk food.
Speaking Friday on the floor of the Illinois House, state Rep. Edgar Gonzalez, who lives near where Toledo died, called the killing a “murder” and expressed frustration at what he described as a too-familiar pattern of police abuse.
“So if you put your hands up, they shoot. If you put your hands down, they shoot,” Gonzalez said.