NOTE: Video in this story has been edited to stop at the moment just before 13-year-old Adam Toledo is shot. VIEWER DISCRETION IS ADVISED.
CHICAGO (WGN) – A 13-year-old boy appears to have dropped a gun and raised his hands just before a Chicago Police officer fatally shot him last month after a foot chase in the Little Village neighborhood on the city’s Southwest Side.
Police body camera footage of the shooting, released Thursday by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, shows a CPD officer shooting Adam Toledo once in the chest around 2:30 a.m. on March 29 in the alley of the 2300 block of South Spaulding. Toledo was shot after he and another man, 21-year-old Ruben Roman, allegedly ran away from police who were responding to the area for a report of gunfire.
COPA on Thursday released 17 bodyworn camera videos, four third-party videos and several audio transmissions and police reports related to the shooting. Adam’s family and attorneys viewed the footage Tuesday at COPA’s West Town office.
“We acknowledge that the release of this video is the first step in the process toward the healing of the family, the community and our city,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Adam’s family said in a joint statement released a few hours before the videos were made public. “We understand that the release of this video will be incredibly painful and elicit an emotional response to all who view it, and we ask that people express themselves peacefully.”
Speaking at a press conference a few hours after the videos were released, Adeena Weiss Ortiz, an attorney for Adam’s family, said: “At the time Adam was shot, he did not have a gun.”
“That child complied. Adam complied with the officer’s request,” Weiss Ortiz added. “The officer saw his hands were up and he pulled the trigger.”
Bodycam footage from the firing officer shows he and his partner briefly chasing Roman and Adam through an alley near Farragut Career Academy High School. The firing officer’s partner quickly tackles Roman, while the firing officer goes after Adam.
While chasing the teen, the officer repeatedly tells him to “stop right f—— now” and to “show me your f—— hands.” The officer also tells Adam to “drop it.”
Adam can be seen briefly ducking behind a break in a fence near Farragut, then quickly reemerging. The officer was standing about 10-feet-away, pointing his gun and a flashlight at the teen. Moments later, Adam turns toward the officer with both his hands raised, and the officer fires a single shot, striking Adam in the upper left side of his chest, near his heart.
After he’s shot, the teen stumbles backward and collapses to the pavement. Officers immediately run to him, and the officer who shot him is the first to start rendering CPR while calling for more medical aid. More than a dozen additional CPD officers soon arrive at the scene.
As officers are giving the teen aid, his eyes remain halfway open, and blood starts to flow from his mouth and nose.
Responding officers continue talking with Adam in a vain effort to keep him conscious.
“C’mon, little man. Ambo’s here,” one officer on scene tells the boy. “You’re gonna be alright, c’mon.”
As other officers and Chicago Fire Department personnel continue to perform life-saving procedures, the officer who fired the shot soon finds a gun near the break in fence where the boy was shot.
The footage released by COPA directly contradicts the account of the shooting given by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office during a related court hearing held over the weekend.
On Saturday, Assistant State’s Attorney James Murphy told a judge that Adam had a gun in his hand when he was fatally shot by a CPD officer. Bodycam footage — recorded by the officer who fired — indicates that the 13-year-old did have a gun, but he put it on the ground and raised his hands in the moments before the officer shot him once in the chest.
In a statement to Nexstar’s WGN explaining the discrepancy, Sarah Sinovic, a spokeswoman for the State’s Attorney’s Office, said:
“An attorney who works in this office failed to fully inform himself before speaking in court. Errors like that cannot happen and this has been addressed with the individual involved. The video speaks for itself.”
The release of the videos and other materials comes two days after Adam’s family and their attorneys viewed the footage at COPA’s office in West Town. Initially, the family asked COPA to withhold the footage from public view.
Adam, a seventh grader at Gary Elementary School in Little Village, was pronounced dead at the scene. Roman was taken into custody and charged with resisting arrest, a misdemeanor. He was released from police custody a few hours later.
Court records show that Roman, whose address is listed in Edgewater on the North Side, was charged with aggravated unlawful use of a weapon stemming from a 2019 incident in north suburban Evanston. A hearing in that case was scheduled for April 7, but, records show, Roman didn’t show up, and a Cook County judge issued a warrant for his arrest.
Roman was taken back into custody two days later when police found him hiding in a closet in a building in west suburban Maywood. He was also charged with reckless discharge of a firearm, unlawful use of a weapon, endangerment of a child and violating probation. Mugshots released by police after Roman’s two last arrests show that he got a haircut and shaved after Adam was killed.
During last Saturday’s hearing, Murphy also alleged that Roman was the one who fired the gun that drew officers to the scene in the first place. After he was tackled and arrested in the early hours of March 29, Murphy said, Roman dropped a pair of gloves that later tested positive for gunshot residue. Adam’s right hand also tested positive for gunshot residue, Murphy said.
Details of the shooting were slow to emerge at first. In its initial statement, the CPD neglected to disclose Adam’s age or even provide a general description of how old he was. Instead, he was described as an “armed offender” who was killed in a “confrontation” with police.
Though Adam was killed in the early hours of Monday, March 29, his age wasn’t publicly disclosed until the following Thursday. Police officials have said they initially struggled to identify Adam because Roman gave them a phony name for the boy, whose fingerprints were not on file in any database. Adam also didn’t have any ID on his person when he was killed.
“We lost considerable time trying to ID Adam because of the wrong name,” CPD Supt. David Brown — who was visiting family in Texas for Easter when the shooting occurred — said during a press conference in Little Village last week.
According to the CPD, Adam’s mother reported him missing on March 26, but she withdrew that report the next day after Adam returned home.
On March 31, two days after Adam was shot, police contacted his mother again to ask her to go to the morgue. It was then that she identified her son’s remains. Adam’s name and age were released by the medical examiner’s office the following day.
COPA — the city agency that investigates the use of force by CPD officers — initially said it would not release any footage of shooting since Adam was a minor at the time of his death. However, after a review of the Juvenile Court Act, COPA later announced it would make the footage public after Adam’s family viewed it.
A week after Adam’s death, Lightfoot announced that she was demanding the CPD implement changes to its policy on foot pursuits, and she further called for an investigation into, she said, how Adam came to have a gun.
Speaking at that same press conference, Ald. George Cardenas, whose 12th Ward covers the part of Little Village where Adam was killed, decried the culture of gangs that, he said, effectively lured Adam to his death.
“There’s no passing judgment on this family, this mom. But I can only imagine what she went through and everything that was in front of her,” Cardenas said.
“This young man had nobody,” Cardenas added. “It’s sad to say that this young man — and I’ve heard rumors — [had] nobody. Nobody that could help him except a gang. Nobody that could claim him as their own except a gang. It’s a shame on us. I own that. You wish you could do more.”
For decades, the Latin Kings — one of the city’s largest and most organized gangs — have claimed territory in parts of Little Village, particularly on the eastern half of the neighborhood.
And while the Latin Kings reportedly instructed members to shoot at unmarked squad cars as revenge for Adam’s death, the boy’s family issued a statement last week 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 family statement said. “Adam was a loved and supported 13-year-old boy. He lived with his mother, his 90-year-old grandfather and two siblings. His father was in his life. They all loved him very much. The Toledo family is a close-knit family. They look after each other. Adam attended Gary Elementary School where he had the support of his teachers and his classmates. Adam was not alone.”
Adam is the youngest person fatally shot by a Chicago Police officer in recent memory, and the release of the footage is certain to spark widespread protests through the Chicago’s downtown area, which was the setting for two rounds of violent looting in 2020. Earlier this year, the city’s Office of the Inspector General issued a scathing report on the CPD’s response to the unrest of 2020, concluding that the department was wholly unprepared to handle the protests and looting.