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Adam Toledo had gun in his hand just before being shot by Chicago officer, video shows

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Jeremy Gorner, Megan Crepeau, Gregory Pratt and Annie Sweeney

Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO — Video of Adam Toledo’s fatal shooting by a Chicago police officer was released to the public Thursday afternoon, more than two weeks after the 13-year-old was killed following a foot chase in a Little Village alley, igniting anger in the neighborhood and leaving the city on edge.

The materials were published on the website of the Civilian Office of Police Accountability shortly after 2:30 p.m. Central time.

They included images from officers’ body-worn cameras, along with third-party video, police radio recordings and police reports.

The video from the body-worn camera of the officer who fires the shot captures the instant Toledo was struck, moments after the officer begins chasing the teen down the alley.

In that body camera video of the shooting officer — identified in police reports provided by COPA as Ogden District tactical unit Officer Eric Stillman — he can be seen pulling up in the alley in his police vehicle, getting out and running south.

The officer, Stillman, can be heard to shout, “Show me your (expletive) hands!” followed by “Drop it!” with a flickering flashlight on Toledo as he starts to turn around.

The teen can be seen stopping near an opening in a fence as he turns and he appears to start lifting his hands. As a shot is heard, the teen appears to have his hands apart, above his waist, approaching shoulder level.

On a frame-by-frame viewing, a pistol-shaped object appears to be visible in Toledo’s right hand behind his back as he pauses near the opening in the fence and turns his head toward the officer. On the grainy and shaky video, his hands appear to be empty at the moment the officer shoots him.

Later in the video, an officer can be seen shining a flashlight onto a pistol behind the fence where Toledo had been standing.

In a view from a camera across a nearby parking lot, aimed at the alley from behind that fence, the teen can be seen running down the alley from a distance. As he can be seen stopping at the gap where he was eventually shot, his right arm can be seen moving behind the fence, making an underhanded throwing motion toward the area where the gun is later recovered, just before he turns back toward the officer and slumps to the ground.

“Shots fired! Shots fired! Get an ambulance over here now!” Stillman, the officer who fired the shot, can be heard to say in the moments after firing, rushing to Toledo.

“Look at me. Look at me. You all right?” the cop says, standing over the teen.

“Where are you shot?” the cop says before turning Toledo over onto his back. Blood can be seen on the motionless Toledo’s sweatshirt and nose as officers are heard calling for an ambulance and a medical kit.

A police radio crackling in the background, Stillman, the shooting officer, can be seen attempting repeated chest compressions on Toledo before another officer on scene took over. A few others also crowded around the teen.

“Come on, big guy,” one officer can be heard to say.

The attorney for the family said in their view, the video shows that at the moment Adam was shot, he did not have a gun in his hand.

“Adam, during his last second of life, did not have a gun in his hand,” said Adeena Weiss Ortiz, standing outside her office in La Grange Park. “The officer screamed at him, ‘Show me your hands.’ Adam complied, turned around. His hands were empty when he was shot in the chest, at the hands of the officer.”

When asked if Toledo had a gun at any moment in the alley, she said that the video is not clear — even in slow motion — and needs to be “forensically analyzed, enhanced, zoomed in.” But she stressed during the news conference that at the moment Toledo is shot, there is no gun.

“You will not see a gun. You see a foot pursuit down an alley. The Farragut High School is on the right. He approaches the fence. The officer says, ‘Stop, stop, hands , show me your ‘expletive’ hands.’ Adam makes a motion … and is shot.’’

Police have previously said a weapon was recovered at the scene, as have Cook County prosecutors. Police reiterated that Thursday, when they showed the video footage to reporters earlier in the afternoon ahead of COPA’s release.

Brendan Deenihan, CPD’s chief of detectives, showed a compilation of video from a camera at nearby Farragut Career Academy High School, a neighborhood church and the shooting officer’s body camera.

Deenihan said less than a second elapsed from when Deenihan said the officer’s body camera showed a gun in Toledo’s hand to the time the officer fired. Deenihan would not answer any questions about the shooting during the briefing.

A lawyer for Stillman, the officer who fired the shot, Tim Grace, said in his viewing, Toledo had a gun at the time he was confronted.

“At this point the officer was faced with a deadly force situation and all attempts to deescalate had failed,” Grace wrote in an emailed statement, adding that nonlethal force would not have been effective or safe for the officer. “The officer had no place to take cover or concealment, the gun was being (orientated) in his direction and he was left with no other option.”

In one of the police reports, a tactical response report, filled out by officers who use force against suspects, it says Stillman is 34 and has been a Chicago police officer since August 2015. By the time report was reviewed by one of Stillman’s supervisors about 9 1/2 hours after the shooting, it only identified Toledo as a Joe Doe.

Since becoming a Chicago cop in August 2015, Stillman has been named in three complaints but has never been disciplined, according to the Invisible Institute, an organization that advocates for police accountability.

Toledo was shot in the chest in the early morning hours of March 29, police have said, after officers responded to gunshots near 24th Street and Sawyer Avenue.

The release came after Mayor Lori Lightfoot held a news conference Thursday on the video, where she called it “excruciating” to watch.

The mayor grew emotional as she talked about the city’s ongoing struggles with gun violence, saying “We can’t have that be what young people experience in our city.”

“Simply put, we failed Adam,” she said.

The mayor and lawyers for Toledo’s family also renewed a call for calm Thursday in the hours before the images were made public.

“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,” the joint statement said. “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.”

The city’s top lawyer, Celia Meza, met with Toledo family attorneys Adeena Weiss Ortiz and Joel Hirschhorn on Tuesday, according to the statement, and they agreed “that all material should be released, including a slowed-down compilation of the events of March 29 that resulted in the tragic death of 13-year-old Adam Toledo.”

A 21-year-old man, Ruben Roman, has been charged with carrying and firing the gun that apparently brought police to the area. The gun was recovered near where Toledo was shot, and investigators had matched it with cartridge casings found at the scene where Roman had been firing, authorities have said.

One body camera video released by COPA shows two officers running after Roman, and one tackling him. Red and black gloves are seen on the pavement next to Roman, who is face down.

“Listen!” one officer can be heard to shout. “Put your hands behind your back! Put your hands behind your back!”

Roman appears to try to get up. “No! No, dude!” the officer says. “Hold on!”

Shorty afterward, according to another body camera video, an officers ask Roman, “Where you live?”

“I live in Maywood,” Roman said before an officer asks why he’s in Little Village. “’Cause I was just passing by. I was just on my way home.”

He was also asked if he ran from police. “Never,” Roman replies. “I don’t know what’s going on. I got tackled.”

Nearby, Stillman, who fired the shot that struck Toledo, could be seen in a gravel field on the other side of the fence where the teen had been. The officer who handcuffed Roman walked up to Stillman and appeared to console him.

“You want to sit down?” she asked him softly before he took a seat on a plank along the fence with his head down. A sergeant can be seen walking by and asking if Stillman is all right.

The video was shown to the Toledo family Tuesday night by COPA officials , who are tasked with investigating police shootings in the city. Officials delayed the public release of the material, which is required by city policy, at the request of the family.

The investigation into whether the officer followed department use of force rules is in its early stages, officials said this week.

“COPA is committed to completing a full, thorough and objective investigation of the entire incident which includes not only the officer’s use of deadly force but also the actions of other involved officers leading up to and following the deadly shooting to determine whether each officers’ actions complied with (Police) Department policy directives and training” a COPA statement read.

As a matter of routine, COPA refers its police shooting investigations to the Cook County state’s attorney’s office for a review of whether criminal charges could be warranted. COPA also routinely notifies federal authorities about the shootings for their consideration of whether the civil rights of the person shot by the officer were violated.

Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s office has declined to comment on the case. The U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago indicated it was aware of the situation but a spokesman declined to comment further.

Meanwhile, Chicago was left to absorb the images of Toledo’s shooting during an already tense week where national issues related to policing and race were already at the forefront. The trial of former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin for the killing of George Floyd was in its final stages, and another officer in a Minneapolis-area community, Brooklyn Center, was charged with second-degree manslaughter for this week’s fatal shooting of 20-year-old Daunte Wright during a traffic stop.

Chicago police have been making preparations in case of any civil unrest resulting from the video release, officials said. Sources said several specialized Chicago police units were preparing this week for possible major protests or disturbances.

Roman was in court Saturday for a bond hearing after being charged with firing a gun as he stood next to Toledo that night. He was charged with felonies including child endangerment, aggravated unlawful use of a weapon and reckless discharge of a firearm after being arrested last Friday.

The Toledo family left COPA’s offices Tuesday evening without commenting on the details of the video. Their lawyer’s office released a statement Tuesday night saying attorneys there would continue their own investigation.

“The experience was extremely difficult and heartbreaking for everyone present and especially for Adam’s family,” the statement said of the video viewing.

The family was expected to address the media Thursday afternoon.

After Toledo was shot, police were not able to identify him immediately because he was not carrying a cell phone or an identification, officials have said.

When police questioned Roman the night of the shooting, he at first gave a false name for Toledo, then a few hours later denied knowing who he was with, authorities said.

Detectives then searched missing persons reports from the neighborhood to see if any matched Toledo’s description. They found one and contacted the family March 31. Toledo was identified that day by his family, and the next day the department confirmed his age and the Cook County medical examiner’s office released his name.

News that such a young person had been fatally shot by police touched off immediate tension and protests in Little Village, with calls for the release of the footage, arrest of the officer and massive reforms to policing — including the now common call for the department be stripped of funding all together.

But there were also more quiet, somber vigils for Toledo, who was remembered as a cherished part of his extended family.

©2021 Chicago Tribune. Visit at chicagotribune.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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1 COMMENT

  1. Yah know all these shootings as tragic, But they are results of poor behavior of the individual suspected of a crime. My heart breaks for his parents. But I have to ask why was that kid out at 2 am hanging with a 21 yo fellon…

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