Chicago To Release Video Thursday From Fatal Police Shooting Of 13-Year-Old Adam Toledo

Adam Toledo Vigil
Mourners hold up signs at a vigil to honor Adam Toledo, a 13-year-old boy fatally shot by Chicago police, in Little Village on April 5, 2021. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ
Adam Toledo Vigil
Mourners hold up signs at a vigil to honor Adam Toledo, a 13-year-old boy fatally shot by Chicago police, in Little Village on April 5, 2021. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ

Chicago To Release Video Thursday From Fatal Police Shooting Of 13-Year-Old Adam Toledo

The city of Chicago is expected to release videos connected to the fatal police shooting of 13-year-old Adam Toledo Thursday.

The planned release of the video comes two and a half weeks after the seventh grader was killed by a single gunshot to the chest during a foot chase in Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood at about 2:30 a.m. March 29.

The shooting sparked vigils and protests in Chicago and prompted Mayor Lori Lightfoot to promise a new policy on when and how police officers engage in foot chases.

The impending release of video of the shooting has been hanging over the city since the beginning of the month, when Chicago officials announced that the shooting officer’s body-worn camera captured the incident. Activists and the child’s family had pushed for the video’s release. However, this week, the boy’s family asked the city not to “immediately release” the footage, according to a statement from the Civilian Office of Police Accountability.

The boy’s family viewed videos and other materials from the shooting on Tuesday. A family spokesperson described it as “extremely difficult and heartbreaking.” The family has called for peace as the public reacts to the videos.

In 2015, the release of video showing police killing 17-year-old Laquan McDonald inspired massive protests and forced seismic changes in government. That video was kept hidden from the public for more than a year and released only after a court fight. Outrage over the alleged attempt to cover up the killing forced the city to adopt a new policy of releasing police shooting videos within 60 days.

The Adam Toledo video release is coming much sooner than that because of the public attention and the young age of the boy killed. However, the city initially attempted to keep video from the public, saying a state law meant to protect the privacy of minors prevented its release. Experts told WBEZ Lightfoot’s administration was misinterpreting the law, and the city reversed course.

The shooting happened, according to the Chicago Police Department, after officers responded to an alert about potential shots fired near West 24th Street and South Sawyer Avenue on the city’s Southwest Side. Police said when the officers arrived, two people ran, including Adam, and that an officer fired a single shot during an “armed confrontation.”

The other person with Adam that night, who authorities have identified as 21-year-old Ruben Roman, Jr., was arrested and has been charged with illegal gun possession, reckless discharge of a firearm and child endangerment.

In a recent court hearing Cook County prosecutors said Roman fired the seven or eight shots that drew police to the area, and at some point gave the gun to Adam as they ran away from the shooting scene. Two uniformed officers chased them. One officer tackled Roman to the ground while the other chased Adam and then shot him, according to prosecutors.

Adam’s age and identity were not public until three days after the shooting. Police say they struggled to identify the child because he was not carrying any ID and because Roman gave police a fake name for the boy.

Adam’s mother, Elizabeth Toledo, had reported her son missing the week before he was killed, but, on March 27, detectives closed the missing person case because she told them Adam had returned home.

Police said they identified Adam only after detectives started going through closed cases. They contacted Elizabeth Toledo, who identified Adam on Wednesday, March 31. She said her son had returned home on March 27 but then left home again that night.

The late hour and circumstances of the incident led many on social media and elsewhere to blame Elizabeth Toledo for her own child’s death.

Lightfoot has called on Chicagoans not to pass judgment.

“Ms. Toledo and her family need our love and support in this moment, not our withering judgment,” Lightfoot said at a press conference on April 5. “Give her the space to breathe, to start to comprehend for herself in her way and at her own speed the magnitude in which her life and that of her family’s have now forever changed.”

Still, the mayor compared the boy to her brother, whom she said had been “lost … to the streets.” And Lightfoot vowed that police would find out who put a gun in Adam’s hand.

Police Superintendent David Brown said the police shooting of a child had been one of his greatest fears “given the recent rise in violent crimes involving juveniles.” Brown said he learned an officer had shot a child the day it took place.

Patrick Smith is a reporter on WBEZ’s Criminal Justice Desk. Follow him @pksmid. Email him at psmith@wbez.org.