A police watchdog agency Thursday released a video showing a Chicago police officer making a split-second decision to shoot Adam Toledo after seeing what appeared to be a gun in the hand of the 13-year-old boy — whose arms were raised when he was shot and killed.
Police have said they found a gun at the scene of the shooting and that it was the weapon Adam was holding. The officer’s body-cam video doesn’t show Adam throwing away the weapon before he was shot and when his hands were raised, he didn’t appear to be holding a weapon.
But another video shows Adam apparently throwing something through a gap on the other side of the fence — and police video shows an officer discovering a handgun at that spot, about 10 feet away.
The officer who shot Adam was wearing a body camera that shows him chasing Adam down an alley in Little Village at about 2:38 a.m. on March 29.
The officer yells “stop” and then orders Adam to show his hands. Then the officer shouts “drop it!” and fires.
A slowed-down version of the video, prepared by the Chicago Police Department, shows Adam standing in a large gap in a wooden fence with his side to his officer and what appears to be a gun behind his back.
In less than 0.85 seconds from that moment, the officer shot Adam, whose hands are raised almost to his shoulders. He crumples to the ground and the officer immediately calls for an ambulance.
The officer asks, “You alright? Where you shot?” and then “stay with me” and starts doing chest compressions on Adam. That was in contrast to the video of the shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, who notably didn’t immediately receive medical attention after he was shot by an officer in 2014.
Another officer’s body-camera video shows 21-year-old Ruben Roman, the man who was with Adam that morning, on the ground in the alley and getting handcuffed.
The Chicago Police Department gave reporters an advance look at the video and other surveillance videos from the neighborhood before the Civilian Office of Police Accountability released it to the public. One version of the video was played in slow motion.
An attorney for the Toledo family said it will pursue legal action against the officer who shot Adam.
“If you’re shooting an unarmed child with his arms in the air, it’s an assassination,” she said.
But John Catanzara, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, said the officer was justified.
“He was 100% right,” Catanzara said. “The offender still turned with a gun in his hand. This occurred in eight-tenths of a second.”
The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois on Thursday called for a “complete and transparent” investigation.
“The video released today shows that police shot Adam Toledo even though his hands were raised in the air,” said Colleen Connell, executive director of the ACLU of Illinois.
“The people of Chicago deserve answers about the events surrounding this tragic interaction,” she said, adding, ”The anger and frustration expressed by many in viewing the video is understandable and cannot be ignored.”
The Civilian Office of Police Accountability, which reviews police shootings to determine if they comply with police policy and state law, hasn’t issued any findings in the case.
Adam’s mother, Elizabeth Toledo, had viewed the video Monday at the Civilian Office of Police Accountability. She asked the agency to withhold the video from the public, but the agency said it was legally obligated to release it.
Toledo didn’t comment to reporters after she saw the video, but a lawyer for the family said the experience was “difficult and heartbreaking” and called for calm ahead of expected demonstrations following the release of the video.
An hour before the video was released, the Rev. Ramiro Rodriguez of Amor De Dios United Methodist Church at 2356 S. Sawyer Ave. was mowing the lawn around a memorial for Adam. When he saw the video, he thought of his own kids.
“They grew up here and it’s thanks to God they didn’t have any problems,” he said in Spanish. “But now I have grandchildren who are growing up and they come to visit me happily and I don’t want anyone to do that to them. It would break my heart.”
As a vehicle drove by blasting “F-k the police” by rap group NWA, 69-year-old Francisco Herrera of Berwyn choked up when he remembered the time his own child was shot by police in Cicero.
“As a dad, I’ve lived through this. It’s really hard,” Herrera said.
The 34-year-old officer who shot Adam joined the force in 2015, according to police sources.
The Invisible Institute’s website, which tracks police discipline, doesn’t show any complaints against the officer. He’s a recipient of the superintendent’s award of valor and has a military background, according to the site. The Sun-Times isn’t naming him because he isn’t officially accused of wrongdoing.
Adam was killed after officers responded to a ShotSpotter gunshot detector alert and saw two people in an alley in the 2300 block of South Sawyer Avenue, authorities say.
Police have said only that Adam was in an “armed confrontation” with an officer. They also released a photo of a handgun they say he was carrying.
In a court hearing Saturday, a Cook County prosecutor provided more details about the shooting, saying an officer confronted Adam at an opening in a wooden fence. The officer asked Adam to show his hands and the teenager, who stood with his left side to the officer, lowered his right hand.
When the officer ordered Adam to “drop it,” he turned to the officer with the gun in his right hand and the officer shot him, the prosecutor said.
The Cook County state’s attorney’s office didn’t mention Saturday that Adam’s hands were raised when he was shot.
On Thursday, the office said the prosecutor “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.”
In the weeks since Adam was killed, the Chicago Police Department has been on alert for possible retaliation by the Latin Kings street gang against police officers, according to department documents and sources. The area where Adam was shot is considered to be a Latin Kings stronghold.
According to prosecutors, Adam was hanging out with Roman, who was on probation for a gun offense. Roman is now charged with child endangerment, reckless discharge of a firearm and illegal gun possession in the incident.
At a court hearing for Roman on Saturday, a prosecutor said officers were responding to a gunshot detector that went off because Roman was shooting at a passing car. During a foot chase, Roman dropped red gloves, and tests determined they were covered with gunshot residue, the prosecutor said. Adam had gunshot residue on his right hand, the prosecutor said.
The Civilian Office of Police Accountability’s decision to release body-camera videos, police radio transmissions and other evidence in the case represents a change from when the controversial video of the fatal police shooting of Laquan McDonald was released in 2015. In the McDonald case, a judge had ordered the release of the video.
Public outcry over the video led to a federal court order requiring sweeping reforms in the Chicago Police Department, which is continuing to put them in place slowly under the eye of a court-appointed monitor.
Jason Van Dyke, the officer who shot McDonald 16 times as he wielded a knife, was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to more than six years in prison.
Contributing: Jon Seidel