Officials in Chicago have called for answers in the police shooting of a young boy last week. Thirteen-year-old Adam Toledo was shot dead by officers in what his family now calls a “reprehensible crime.” Advocates and members of city hall have since echoed the family’s pleas for justice and closure.
The incident occurred in the early hours of Monday, March 29. At about 2:30 am, police received reports of gunfire in the Chicago neighborhood of Little Village.
Officers arriving at the scene reportedly found two males, one armed with a handgun. A chase ensued, leading to a standoff in an alley, during which an officer shot one suspect, Toledo, in the chest. The boy reportedly died shortly thereafter on the scene.
Police apprehended the boy’s companion, later identified as 21-year-old Ruben Roman. Sources told ABC7 Chicago that Roman, who faces charges of resisting arrest in the incident, is a known gang member.
Chicago Police Respond
“My greatest fear as the Superintendent of the Chicago Police Department has been a deadly encounter between one of our own and a juvenile, especially given the recent rise in violent crimes involving juveniles throughout the city. Unfortunately, this fear became a reality earlier this week,” said Superintendent David Brown in a Statement on Thursday, April 1.
“Our officers must make split-second decisions when it comes to the use of deadly force, and that is a heavy burden,” Brown continued. “This is a tragedy, the most tragic of circumstances. Let’s not make it worse by rushing to judgment.”
Toledo’s family, however, has spoken out against the officers’ handling of the situation.
“They had a lot of options, but not kill him!” said Elizabeth Toledo, the deceased’s mother. “They could have shot at his leg, his arm, up in the air — I don’t know, but not kill my baby.”
Remembering Adam Toledo
The family also condemned what they called a “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’s attorney said in a statement on Monday, April 5. “Adam was a loved and supported 13-year-old boy. He lived with his mother, his 90-year-old grandfather, and two of his 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.”
Toledo’s mother said the boy, who wanted to be a police officer one day, had recently begun sneaking out at night.
“Adam was a good kid,” said the family’s attorney, Adeena Weiss-Ortiz. “He had no criminal history, he went to Gary Elementary School. He shared time with his four siblings and all we know is that he was shot.”
Investigating the Shooting
The Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) pledged to investigate the shooting in a statement on Thursday, April 1.
“COPA is currently making every effort and researching all legal avenues that will allow for the public release of all video materials which capture the tragic fatal shooting of 13-year-old Adam Toledo,” the office wrote on Twitter. “COPA has been in contact with the Toledo family and will provide the family a review of all materials.”
We are encouraged by COPA’s commitment to transparency in their decision to release the video in a timely manner. The public deserves a complete window into the split-second decisions our officers are forced to make. https://t.co/4nklwKnfnu— Chicago Police Superintendent David O. Brown (@ChiefDavidBrown) April 2, 2021
Both COPA and the Toledo family confirmed the following day that police would release the body camera footage for their viewing this week. The family will decide after watching the footage whether to pursue legal action, according to ABC7.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot also called for an investigation, saying “transparency and speed are crucial.”
“As a mother of a 13-year-old myself, I can only imagine the incredible pain this boy’s parents are experiencing at this moment. My heart goes out to them,” Mayor Lightfoot wrote on Twitter.
The Chicago Police Department said it would “fully” support the COPA investigation. The department also told ABC 7 the officer involved in the shooting has been placed on desk duty for 30 days in the meantime.
The family has since started a GoFundMe page to raise funds for funeral expenses.