‘Difficult to watch’: Chicago to release body-camera video showing fatal police shooting of 13-year-old Adam Toledo

CHICAGO – The mayor and city leaders urged for calm Thursday ahead of the release of police body-camera videos of last month’s fatal shooting of Adam Toledo, 13, by a Chicago officer who chased the boy into an alley – an incident that has gripped the city and led to fierce pleas for police accountability.

“They are incredibly difficult to watch, particularly at the end,” Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who has a 13-year-old daughter, said at a press conference, her voice cracking as she spoke. “No one should have a video broadcast widely of their child’s last moments, much less be placed in the terrible situation of losing their child in the first place.”

Lightfoot urged residents to “proceed with deep empathy and calm, and most importantly, peace.” She asked Chicagoans to “reserve judgment” and “wait until we hear all the facts” about what happened.

“I want to ask again that everyone tuning in right now think first and foremost about Adam Toledo, about what his family is enduring every single day since they learned of his passing,” she said. “I also ask that each of us give them space to breathe.”

The expected release Thursday comes amid calls for transparency from the boy’s family, city officials and the mayor. The Toledo family, after viewing the video Tuesday night, requested the footage not be immediately released to the public, according to a statement by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, which investigates cases of potential police misconduct. 

“The experience was extremely difficult and heartbreaking for everyone present and especially for Adam’s family,” family attorneys Adeena Weiss-Ortiz and Joel Hirschhorn said in a separate statement Tuesday night.

Abigail Garcia, 7, right, takes a knee with her mother Judith Garcia and other protestors during a peaceful protest on Tuesday, April 13, 2021 in downtown Chicago, demanding justice for Daunte Wright and Adam Toledo, who were shot dead by police. (Photo: Shafkat Anowar, AP)

The videos come amid rising tensions in Chicago and nationwide over police-involved fatal incidents, including the shooting of 20-year-old Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, just miles from where former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin is on trial for the death of George Floyd.

Demonstrations in Chicago began last week as protesters from throughout the city gathered to demand police accountability in the deaths of Adam and Wright. Dozens marched through the city’s downtown Tuesday evening, and dozens more gathered Wednesday evening for a rally and march.

Demonstrators gather in Freedom Plaza in downtown demanding justice for 13-year-old Adam Toledo, who was killed last month by a Chicago police officer on April 14, 2021. (Photo: Jessica Koscielniak, USA TODAY)

What police say happened in Adam Toledo’s killing

According to police, officers were dispatched to the Little Village neighborhood in the early hours of March 29 when the department’s ShotSpotter technology detected eight gunshots. When police arrived, Adam and 21-year-old Ruben Roman fled, authorities said.

An officer shot Adam once in the chest after an “armed confrontation” in an alley, police said. Prosecutors say the boy was holding a gun when the officer shot him. Adam died at the scene.

Officials have not publicly identified the officer, who has been placed on administrative leave for 30 days. 

Prosecutors say Roman was later seen on surveillance video firing the rounds that brought police to the scene before he and Adam fled. As Roman was arrested, another officer chased Adam.

Police work at the scene of a fatal shooting of a 13-year-old boy by a Chicago Police officer on Monday, March 29, 2021 in Chicago. (Photo: Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune via AP)

On Saturday, Roman was held on a $150,000 bond and faces felony charges of unlawful use and reckless discharge of a firearm, as well as child endangerment and violating probation.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Wednesday that she had seen “multiple videos” of the shooting but would not comment on the details. While acknowledging the need for transparency, Lightfoot said city officials would “work with the family to move this process along” and added, “I think we have to be respectful of them and move at their speed. That’s what we’re endeavoring to do in balancing a range of different issues.”

Earlier this month, Lightfoot said the tragedy emphasizes the need to change Chicago police foot pursuit policy, saying such pursuits are one of the most dangerous activities police engage in because they are often separated from their partners and communication becomes difficult. She said there will be focus groups of officers and community members to evaluate best practices.

Family says Adam attended Gary Elementary School, was ‘loved and supported’

Jacob Perea, 7, left and Juan Perea, 9 holds signs on Tuesday, April 6, 2021, as they attend a press conference following the death of 13-year-old Adam Toledo, who was shot by a Chicago Police officer at about 2 a.m. on March 29 in an alley west of the 2300 block of South Sawyer Avenue near Farragut Career Academy High School. (Photo: Shafkat Anowar, AP)

Adam was a “loved and supported 13-year-old boy” from a “close-knit family,” the family said in a statement through their lawyers earlier this month. He lived with his mother, his 90-year-old grandfather and two of his siblings, and his father was in his life, the statement said.

Adam attended Gary Elementary School, where he had the support of his teachers and his classmates, the statement said. According to Chicago Public Schools, Gary is a high-rated school serving more than 900 students from third through eighth grade. Nearly 98% of students are Hispanic, and 95% are low income.

In the statement, the family said they wanted to “correct the hurtful and false mischaracterization of Adam as a lonely child of the street who had no one to turn to.”

“This is simply not true,” the statement said. “Adam was not alone.”

Community demands transparency: ‘She’ll never have her child back’

About a dozen protesters gathered at the city’s downtown Federal Plaza on Wednesday night to demand police accountability and justice for Adam. The crowd later grew to two dozen marching through the streets of downtown Chicago with a drummer leading.

Handfuls of police officers on bicycles flanked the crowd on either side as three police cars followed closely behind. A Black Lives Matter flag flew alongside a banner with a photo of Adam, the hashtag #justiceforadamtoledo, and the words “CPD stop killing our children.”

Demonstrators gather in Freedom Plaza in downtown demanding justice for 13-year-old Adam Toledo, who was killed last month by a Chicago police officer on April 14, 2021. (Photo: Jessica Koscielniak, USA TODAY)

Little Village Community Council president Baltazar Enriquez started a lineup of speeches by asking Lightfoot to share “the truth of what happened” to Adam. “Today we ask for transparency,” he said.

Enriquez said the shooting is just further reason to abolish the police department and funnel its resources into social services.

Troy Gaston, a speaker at the protest, echoed Enriquez’s calls for transparency and said the officer involved should be held accountable. “These young men of color residing in disinvested communities, officers are engaging them as enemy number one,” he said. “Whose child is next?”

Demonstrators gather in Freedom Plaza in downtown demanding justice for 13-year-old Adam Toledo, who was killed last month by a Chicago police officer on April 14, 2021. (Photo: Jessica Koscielniak, USA TODAY)

Alma Sanchos, 33, said she was protesting for her 12-year-old daughter, who she says was friends with Adam. The two played video games together, she said. “Sometimes now I watch her just zoning out, and I know she’s thinking about him,” Sanchos said. “It’s just awful to be so young and have to think about these things like police brutality.”

Sanchos said that, as a mother, she could not imagine the grief Adam’s mother is experiencing. “There are no words,” she said. “She’ll never have her child back. Our children are supposed to be protected. They were supposed to protect them.”

Members of Chicago's Little Village Community Council march on Tuesday, April 6, 2021 to protest against the death of 13-year-old Adam Toledo, who was shot by a Chicago Police officer at about 2 a.m. on March 29 in an alley west of the 2300 block of South Sawyer Avenue near Farragut Career Academy High School. (Photo: Shafkat Anowar, AP)

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