CHICAGO — Hours before city officials plan to release video of a police officer shooting 13-year-old Adam Toledo, Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Thursday asked Chicago residents to withhold judgment on the shooting and again called for peace.
The mayor choked back tears as she discussed the city’s endemic gun violence, saying, “We can’t have that be what young people experience in our city.”
“Simply put, we failed Adam,” she said during a City Hall news conference.
Lightfoot recounted how, two weeks ago, “a tragedy occurred that left a child dead, a mother in mourning and a family in crisis.”
“I have seen those videos and let me just say they are incredibly difficult to watch, particularly at the end,” Lightfoot said.
Toledo was fatally shot by a Chicago police officer in the early morning hours of March 29 in a Little Village alley after a foot pursuit, touching off protests and demonstrations in the neighborhood.
The Civilian Office of Police Accountability, which investigates all shootings by police, said it would release video of the shooting and other materials on Thursday, and that the Toledo family had been notified of that decision.
As more people see the footage, Lightfoot said Thursday, they should think about what Toledo and his family have experienced “since they learned of his passing. I also ask that each of us give them space to breathe.”
“Even as our understanding of this incident continues to evolve, this remains a complicated and nuanced story,” Lightfoot said. “We all must proceed with deep empathy and calm and, importantly, peace.”
Reflecting on the shooting, which she called a tragedy, Lightfoot said two facts are clear.
“First, in the middle of he night, this child was in contact with an adult who had a gun, and then ended up being shot and killed by a police officer,” Lightfoot said. “(Second) there are too many young people in our city, boys and girls alike, who have been left vulnerable by systemic failures that we simply must fix.”
Lightfoot also called for federal gun control, saying the city has “too many damn guns” on the street. She also said it’s important to improve police community relations, though her administration has been criticized for not delivering key reforms such as civilian oversight of police.
Lightfoot has been careful to avoid commenting directly on the video. The mayor has a long, complicated history in the local police reform movement.
She’s a former federal prosecutor who headed the board that oversees police discipline and chaired the Police Accountability Task Force formed by then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel after white police Officer Jason Van Dyke shot and killed Black teenager Laquan McDonald. But she is often criticized by activists as being pro-police and her prior stints overseeing police discipline have led to criticism that she didn’t do enough to stamp out bad cops or troubled practices.
Earlier Thursday, Lightfoot and lawyers the Toledo family issued a joint statement calling for calm as the city prepares to release video of the teen’s fatal police shooting Thursday.
“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 from Lightfoot and Toledo’s family lawyers 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.”
A seventh grader at Gary Elementary School in Little Village, Toledo is the youngest person fatally shot by Chicago police in years.
On Saturday, Cook County prosecutors accused Ruben Roman, 21, of firing a gun as he stood next to Toledo, charging him with felonies including child endangerment, aggravated unlawful use of a weapon and reckless discharge of a firearm after being arrested Friday.
Some details of what the video might show were part of that court hearing.
About 2:30 a.m. March 29, Roman and Toledo were walking together on South Sawyer Avenue toward 24th Street, prosecutors said. They can be distinguished in camera footage by their clothing: a gold jacket on Roman and a white hat on Toledo.
As they walked toward the corner, a vehicle drove by, and Roman walked up and got into a “shooting stance,” Assistant State’s Attorney James Murphy said in court.
Toledo, at first, backed away, the prosecutor said. But as Roman began firing, the teen walked up closer until he was just an arm’s length away from the shooter, according to Murphy.
Roman got off seven or eight shots, and the two quickly fled, Murphy said, Roman taking the lead and Toledo right behind.
A city ShotSpotter device detected the shots, which brought two uniformed Chicago police officers in a marked squad car to the scene in less than a minute. Roman and Toledo cut through an alley together, and police gave chase on foot, Murphy said.
Both of the officers’ body-worn cameras were recording, and one officer tackled Roman as Toledo kept running, the prosecutor said.
Toledo kept running as an officer ordered him to stop, then paused near a break in a wooden fence, Murphy said, and the officer then ordered Toledo to show his hands.
The officer told Toledo “drop it, drop it,” as Toledo turned toward the officer with a gun in his right hand, Murphy said.
The officer fired one shot, hitting Toledo in the chest. The gun he was holding landed a few feet away and was recovered, Murphy said.
The officer radioed for an ambulance and began chest compressions on Toledo, who was ultimately pronounced dead at the scene, Murphy said. The gun recovered near Toledo matched the cartridge casings found at the scene where Roman had been firing, according to the prosecutor.