In Little Village, Chicago, a community that’s made up mainly of Latinos, a majority from Mexico, a13-year-old was shot and killed by police last Monday. Adam Toledo was pronounced dead at the scene after a single gun shot to his chest, according to police, after he and a second person ran away from police officers. Police said officers responded to the area after an alert of multiple shots fired and there were two men in an alley at about 2 a.m. March 29. The second person, who police identified as 21-year-old Ruben Roman Jr., was taken into custody. He was later charged with a misdemeanor count of resisting arrest. According to family members, Adam was one of five children, who still played with Legos and attended Gary Elementary School.
“We want to know how it happened and why they robbed him of his life,” Toledo’s grandfather told NBC 5. “If the government is the one who commits this type of crime then who are we supposed to turn to complain? I want justice. That’s all I ask for.”
Police said investigators recovered a gun near the shooting scene, but the department hasn’t said whether the teen fired it or was holding it. The officer, whose identity has not yet been released, was placed on administrative leave. Adam’s identity had initially been kept under wraps and his mother hadn’t learned he was killed until Wednesday when she went to the Cook County medical examiner’s office and identified him, the Chicago Sun Times reported.
A Chicago police spokesperson tweeted a picture of a gun officers said was found at the scene that night but the department hasn’t said whether the teen fired it or was holding it. The officer involved in what has been described as an “armed confrontation”.
The publication also reported that police spokesman Don Terry said his family first reported Adam missing last Friday, days before the shooting. In a follow-up interview on Saturday, detectives were told he had returned home safely, according to Terry. Adam was then removed from a missing persons database.
“The officer was absolutely shaken by the circumstances of which happened that night because a life was taken,” union president John Catanzara said in a statement released on Youtube. “But it was justified. The offender was fleeing from the police with a weapon. It’s irregardless that he was 13 years old.”
Body cam footage was initially not going to be released since he was a minor but this past Friday the Chicago agency handling the investigation announced that it will be released soon. No definitive date has been given though they said it will be released after his family has viewed it, the local NPR station reported.
In the aftermath Chicago police issued a “officer safety alert” warning that the department’s narcotics unit has been informed that factions of the Latin Kings on the Southwest Side “were instructed by ranking members to shoot at unmarked Chicago police vehicles.”
“This report, if true, is extremely disturbing,” Adeena Weiss Ortiz, who represents the Toledo family, said in a statement. “Let me be perfectly clear, the Toledo family condemns violence against police and all other members of the community.”
“No one has anything to gain by inciting violence,” his mother, Elizabeth Toledo, added. “Adam was a sweet and loving boy. He would not want anyone else to be injured or die in his name.”
A memorial fund was set up through GoFundMe with a goal of $15,000 and it has already exceeded that goal with more than $49,000 raised.
“Adam had many dreams that he will never get to live out. Ironically one of his dreams was to become a police officer . It weighs heavy on our hearts to be planning our last goodbyes instead of watching him grow up and live out those dreams,” his mom wrote in the GFM page.
UPDATE, April 16, 2021:
The video footage was released by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) and Toledo can be seen putting his hands up right before he’s shot in the chest. The gun found at the scene matched the casings shot by Roman who reportedly handed the gun to Toledo before police arrived, ABC reported. The footage from ShotSpotter affirms what prosecutors provided in court as it records six to eight gunshots, which along with 911 calls led police to head to the site.
“It appears to me that the young man had his hands up when he was shot,” attorney Tony Thedford of Thedford Garber Law said. “It appears to me that when the young man made the move to the gate or the fence, that opening where the shooting occurred, before he turned around it appears if he had a gun he disposed of it right before the shooting. It’s very evident to me that he did not have the gun at the time the officer fired his weapon.”
The entire incident lasts about ten minutes, from the shots initially detected by the city’s gunfire detection technology around 2:36 a.m., to when Toledo is pronounced dead at the scene at 2:46 a.m.
“I’m not going to deny that, that it could have been a gun. But I can’t tell you with 100% certainty until I have that video forensically analyzed and enhanced,” Adeena Weiss Ortiz, the Toledo family’s attorney, said in a statement. “But it’s not relevant, because he tossed the gun. If he had a gun, he tossed it. The officer said ‘show me your hands,’ he complied, he turned around.”