Editor’s note: WBEZ has decided not to host or embed the police videos of the shooting of Adam Toledo in our coverage of this developing story; instead we have provided links to official city websites. Because of the extreme graphic content of the videos, we strongly recommend viewer discretion.
Body camera video of the police killing of Adam Toledo shows the 13-year-old raising his hands above his head and complying with police commands when he was shot.
The city of Chicago on Thursday afternoon released highly anticipated videos and documents connected to the March 29 shooting. The videos are posted here. (Warning: The videos show the boy’s killing. Viewer discretion is strongly advised.)
Chicago Police Chief of Detectives Brendan Deenihan showed reporters part of the body camera footage and a composite video.
That video shows Adam and another person, identified by authorities as 21-year-old Ruben Roman Jr., walking together down a street in the Little Village neighborhood. Prosecutors said Adam was next to Roman as the man fired a gun seven or eight times, which prompted the police response. At some point, prosecutors said, Roman handed the gun off to the 13-year-old.
Body camera video from the shooting officer, six-year CPD veteran Eric Stillman, shows him chasing Adam through an alley and yelling for the boy to stop. Seconds later, Adam did stop.
The video that was put together by the Police Department freezes on a frame appearing to show a gun in the boy’s hand. (CPD’s compilation is here. Warning: The video shows the killing and is very graphic.)
The officer can then be heard telling Adam, “Show me your f***ing hands,” and the boy complies. The gun does not appear to be in Adam’s hand when he is shot. The officer shoots a single round as the boy is raising his arms above his head.
Later body camera footage records Stillman walking around the scene and shining his flashlight on a gun laying on the ground against a fence near Adam.
Deenihan said it was “less than a second” between the moment on the video where a gun can be seen and the gunshot.
Immediately after firing the shot, the officer can be heard radioing for an ambulance. He then goes to check on Adam.
“Look at me. Look at me. You all right?” the officer can be heard saying to the boy. “Where you shot man? Where you shot? Stay with me. Stay with me.”
About a minute after the shooting, officers on the scene begin providing medical care to the boy. The firing officer gives him CPR.
Stillman, 34, was hired by the department in 2015, according to city records.
Stillman’s body camera appears to capture the officer crying about five minutes after the shooting.
Tim Grace, Stillman’s attorney, said the officer should “absolutely not” face criminal charges for the shooting.
“This is a police officer that was faced with a deadly situation and it required him to use the ultimate use of force,” Grace said. “And he’s broken up about the fact that he had to do it. And he’s trying to work his way through it. It’s a tragedy for him also.”
But Adeena J. Weiss-Ortiz, a lawyer for Adam’s family, told reporters Thursday afternoon that “the videos speak for themselves.”
Weiss-Ortiz said she is “not going to deny” that an object in the child’s hand seconds before the shooting could have been a firearm, but she said the video made it clear that Adam wasn’t holding a gun when he was killed.
“If you’re shooting an unarmed child with his hands in the air, it is an assassination,” Weiss-Ortiz said.
“An officer is trained not to shoot an unarmed individual, not to shoot an unarmed child,” Weiss-Ortiz said. “If he asked him to toss it and show his hands and the kid complies, then he shouldn’t be shot.”
Hours before the video release, Mayor Lori Lightfoot fought back tears as she urged Chicagoans to remain peaceful.
“No parent 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 said. “As a mom, this is not something you want children to see.”
The release comes two-and-a-half weeks after the seventh-grader was killed around 2:30 a.m. March 29.
The shooting sparked vigils and protests in Chicago and prompted Lightfoot to promise a new policy on when and how police officers engage in foot chases.
Adam’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 came much sooner than that because of the public attention and his young age. However, the city initially attempted to withhold the video, saying an Illinois law that is meant to protect the privacy of minors prevented its release. Experts told WBEZ that Lightfoot’s administration was misinterpreting the law. The city reversed course.
The shooting happened, according to the 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.”
Roman, the person with Adam that night, was arrested and has been charged with illegal gun possession, reckless discharge of a firearm and child endangerment.
At a bond hearing Saturday for Roman, Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney James Murphy said the gun was in Adam’s hand when the police officer shot him in the chest.
Thursday afternoon, however, a spokeswoman for State’s Attorney Kim Foxx said video evidence shows that the prosecutor’s statement was erroneous.
“An attorney who works in this office failed to fully inform himself before speaking in court,” the spokeswoman, Sarah Sinovic, said. “Errors like that cannot happen. This has been addressed with the individual involved. The video speaks for itself.”
Sinovic declined to comment on how Foxx has “addressed” the error with Murphy.
Weiss-Ortiz said the Toledo family “doesn’t know Ruben Roman,” so they can’t speak to Adam’s relation to him.
Adam’s age and identity were not public until three days after the shooting. Police said 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’s body only after detectives started going through closed cases. They contacted the mother, who identified him two days after the shooting. She said her son had returned home on March 27 but then left home again that night.
Patrick Smith and Chip Mitchell are reporters on WBEZ’s Criminal Justice Desk. Follow them @pksmid and @ChipMitchell1. Contact them at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. Becky Vevea contributed reporting. Follow her @beckyvevea.
Correction: In a previous version of this story, a caption misstated the date of the Adam Toledo vigil. It was on April 5.