CHICAGO (AP) — Disturbing bodycam video released Thursday after public outcry over the Chicago police shooting of a 13-year-old boy shows the youth appearing to drop a handgun and begin raising his hands less than a second before an officer fires his gun and kills him.
A still frame taken from officer Eric Stillman’s jumpy nighttime body camera footage shows that Adam Toledo wasn’t holding anything and had his hands up when Stillman shot him once in the chest about 3 a.m. on March 29. Police, who were responding to reports of shots fired in the area, say the boy had a handgun on him before the shooting. And Stillman’s footage shows him shining a light on a handgun on the ground near Toledo after he shot him.
The release of the footage and other investigation materials comes at a sensitive time, with the ongoing trial in Minneapolis of former officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd and the recent police killing of another Black man, Daunte Wright, in one of that city’s suburbs. Before the Civilian Office of Police Accountability posted the material on its website, Mayor Lori Lightfoot called on the public to keep the peace. Some downtown businesses boarded up their windows in the expectation that there could be unrest.
Small groups of protesters gathered at a police station and marched downtown Thursday night, but there were few signs of widespread demonstrations in the city.
“We live in a city that is traumatized by a long history of police violence and misconduct,” Lightfoot said. “So while we don’t have enough information to be the judge and jury of this particular situation, it is certainly understandable why so many of our residents are feeling that all too familiar surge of outrage and pain. It is even clearer that trust between our community and law enforcement is far from healed and remains badly broken.”
Nineteen seconds elapsed from when Stillman got out of his squad car to when he shot Toledo. His bodycam footage shows him chasing Toledo on foot down an alley for several seconds and yelling, “Police! Stop! Stop right [expletive] now!”As the teen slows down, Stillman yells “Hands! Hands! Show me your [expletive] hands!”
Toledo then turns toward the camera, Stillman yells “Drop it!” Midway between repeating that command, he fires his service revolver and Toledo falls. While approaching the wounded boy, Stillman radios in for an ambulance. He can be heard imploring Toledo to “stay awake,” and, as other officers arrive, an officer says he can’t feel a heartbeat and begins administering CPR.
In a lengthy email, Stillman’s attorney, Tim Grace, said Toledo had left the officer no choice but to shoot.
“The juvenile offender had the gun in his right hand … looked at the officer which could be interpreted as attempting to acquire a target and began to turn to face the officer attempting to swing the gun in his direction,” Grace wrote. “At this point the officer was faced with a life threatening and deadly force situation. All prior attempts to deescalate and gain compliance with all of the officer’s lawful orders had failed.”
But Adeena Weiss-Ortiz, an attorney for Toledo’s family, told reporters the footage and other videos “speak for themselves.”
Weiss-Ortiz said it’s irrelevant whether Toledo was holding a gun before he turned toward the officer.
“If he had a gun, he tossed it,” she said. “The officer said, ‘Show me your hands.’ He complied. He turned around.”
The Chicago Police Department typically doesn’t release the names of officers involved in such shootings this early on in an investigation, but Stillman’s name, age and race — he’s 34 and white — were listed in the investigation reports released Thursday.
Weiss-Ortiz said that she looked into Stillman’s record but found no prior disciplinary issues.
Lightfoot, who along with the police superintendent had called on the police accountability board to release the video, asked the public to remain calm but decried the city’s long history of police violence and misconduct, especially in Black and brown communities. She said too many young people are left vulnerable to “systemic failures that we simply must fix.”
Choking up at times, Lightfoot described watching the video footage as “excruciating.”