Last year, when Kristian Armendariz heard about the death of Adam Toledo in his community, he began knocking on doors, trying to rally his Little Village neighbors to create change.
On Tuesday, one year after Toledo was fatally shot by a Chicago police officer, Armendariz stood with the Toledo family and fellow members of the Little Village Community Council at the same alley where Toledo was shot in a renewed call for justice.
“This is not the place where Adam deserved to die, in an alley alone at night at 13 years old,” his sister, Esmerelda Toledo, said tearfully during the vigil Tuesday.
Toledo was fatally shot by Officer Eric Stillman on March 29, 2021. Though Toledo’s hands were raised when he was killed, body camera footage released in April appeared to show the teenager had a gun in his hands moments before.
“He held his hand up and he did what Eric Stillman told him to do, and he still died,” Toledo’s sister said Tuesday. “That is not justice. Adam deserved better than that, and we will not stop until we get justice for him.”
Despite outrage following the shooting, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx announced on March 15 there would be no charges brought against Stillman.
But according to members of the Little Village Community Council on Tuesday, Foxx had promised the community “justice” in a video call shortly after the release of the body camera footage.
“Kim Foxx met with us, she promised us justice,” said Graciela Garcia, head organizer for the council. “She promised us a change. She promised us community building. And since that meeting, we have not heard a word from her office.”
Armendariz said Foxx’s announcement on the lack of charges against Stillman at the same time she announced none against Officer Evan Solano — who fatally shot 22-year-old Anthony Alvarez in Portage Park two days after Toledo was killed — disrespected him and his community.
“[Foxx] told us that she wanted to seek justice on behalf of the community of Little Village,” said Armendariz. “When she combined two fatal shootings into one press release, like Latino young men don’t matter to her, we’re just statistics. That’s what she made us.”
In a statement Tuesday to the Sun-Times, the state’s attorney’s office said it “conducted a thorough review of the shooting of Adam Toledo and found that while Officer Stillman may have violated the CPD foot chase policies, his actions at the time of the shooting did not rise to the level of criminal charges.”
Still, Armendariz said the community won’t give up.
“The justice we’re seeking right now is for Eric Stillman to be prosecuted for manslaughter and to show a message to every elected official in the city … we’re going to hold you accountable.”
In addition to that, Armendariz said the group wants to see a more efficient foot pursuit policy.
The policy instructs officers to refrain from pursuing suspects engaged in Class A misdemeanors unless there is a threat to the public. The Chicago Police Department adopted the policy last March after a recommendation by the Independent Monitoring Team overseeing compliance with a federal consent decree.
While a new draft of the policy was released in early February, the period for public comment has closed and the policy will now be finalized between the Independent Monitoring Team and CPD.
But Armendariz said the policy was faulty to begin with and officials rushed to release it in the wake of the two shootings.
“It’s not transparent,” he said. “Nothing has changed.”
Cheyanne M. Daniels is a staff reporter at the Chicago Sun-Times via Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster the paper’s coverage of communities on the South and West sides.