Prosecutors allege 13-year-old Adam Toledo had a gun when he was shot by Chicago police: What we know

CHICAGO — Prosecutors on Saturday alleged 13-year-old Adam Toledo had a gun when he was fatally shot by police last month on the city’s West Side. 

The city is preparing for the release of what the Civilian Office of Police Accountability has called “troubling video footage” of the high-profile shooting. Adam’s family is expected to view the body-cam video this week before it’s released to the public.

In a statement last week, Adam’s family said the city, police department and accountability office have been “cooperative.” Adam’s funeral was Friday. 

“He was a son, a brother, uncle, a nephew, a friend, a child with a big, loving family and many friends,” his mother, Elizabeth Toledo, wrote on a GoFundMe page in honor of Adam. “Adam loved to play with Lego’s, saying funny jokes to make others laugh. He was a child that brightened up the room when he would walk in.”

Here’s what we know Monday:

What happened leading up to Adam Toledo’s shooting?

Officers were dispatched to a largely Latino neighborhood in the city’s West Side on March 29 after the department’s ShotSpotter technology detected eight gunshots, police say. 

When police arrived, Adam and a 21-year-old man fled, Chicago Police Department Superintendent David Brown said at a press conference last Monday. 

An officer shot Adam once in the chest during an “armed confrontation” in an alley, police said. Adam died at the scene.

Police work at the scene of a fatal shooting of a 13-year-old boy by a Chicago Police officer on Monday, March 29, 2021 in Chicago. (Photo: Antonio Perez, AP)

What are prosecutors saying?

Prosecutors say that Ruben Roman, 21, is seen on video firing the rounds that brought police to the scene before he and Toledo fled the scene with officers in pursuit.

As Roman was arrested, another officer chased Toledo, who was holding a gun when the officer shot him, prosecutors say. That gun matched the cartridge casings found in the area where Roman was firing, prosecutors said.

What is the officer involved?

The identity of the officer who shot Toledo has not yet been released. He has been placed on administrative leave for 30 days, which Brown said is “routine protocol.”

What’s the latest on Ruben Roman?

Roman’s attorney, Assistant Public Defender Courtney Smallwood, called Toledo’s death “tragic” and rejected the implication that Roman is responsible for his death.

“The victim is dead at the hand of the Chicago police officers, not my client,” she said, according to the Associated Press.

Roman was held on a $150,000 bond on charges of child endangerment and gun possession. He was previously charged with a misdemeanor charge of resisting arrest related to the March 29 shooting.

The Toledo family was present during the bond hearing but is not in the position to comment, their attorneys, Adeena Weiss Ortiz and Joel Hirschhorn, said in a statement. 

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Has the family viewed the footage? When will it be made public?

Adam’s family is scheduled to view the police body camera footage and other related materials this week, according to a statement from their attorneys. They did not say specify when or what details would be made public.

“The City of Chicago, the Chicago Police Department and the Civilian Office of Police Accountability have been very cooperative,” the family said. Previously, the family said they had “requested expedited meetings with pertinent authorities to obtain evidence and to review the police body camera footage and other available video.”

The police body-camera footage is expected to be released to the public after the family has viewed it. 

The Civilian Office of Police Accountability, or COPA, initially said it was prohibited from releasing the video because Adam was a minor. But the agency later changed course, saying state law “does not bar publication of the body worn and third-party video camera footage the agency has obtained.”

How is the family responding?

Toledo’s funeral took place Friday.  “The family appreciates the outpouring of support and the respect shown for their privacy in this time of mourning,” the family said in a statement last week. 

Last week, after a press conference with the mayor and police officials, the family responded by saying they were “concerned by presumptions, implications, and statements made today that are not supported by the facts made public so far.”

“We are unable to refute or respond to these statements until we obtain the evidentiary facts, which so far are known only to the police,” the statement said. “We do, however, want to correct the 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.”

Adam was a “loved and supported 13-year-old boy” from a “close-knit family,” the statement said. He lived with his mother, his 90-year-old grandfather and two of his siblings, and his father was in his life, the statement said. He attended Gary Elementary School where he had the support of his teachers and his classmates.

“Adam was not alone,” the statement said.

How has the mayor responded?

At a press conference last Monday, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot called for reforms to how police pursue suspects on foot and urged a “thorough, expeditious” investigation.

Lightfoot said the tragedy emphasizes the need to change Chicago police policy, saying police pursuits on foot are one of the most dangerous activities police engage in because they are often separated from their partners and communication becomes difficult.

“We cannot and will not push the foot pursuit reform off for another day,” Lightfoot said. “No longer can we afford to put off to tomorrow what we can address today, because lives are truly at stake.”

Lightfoot also said she spoke briefly with Adam’s mother, Elizabeth Toledo, to offer her condolences.

“Let us not forget that a mother’s child is dead,” she said. “Siblings are without their brother. And this community is again grieving.”

How has the public responded?

Dozens of community members gathered for a vigil with a balloon release last Monday evening in the Little Village neighborhood where Adam died.

Ana Solano, an organizer at the local grassroots advocacy organization Únete La Villita, helped organize a rally following the vigil, which she said gave people “an opportunity to express our anger and grief and to process our trauma together as a community.”

Solano said the shooting has been particularly traumatic for the Latino community in Chicago, especially for young people who might see themselves in Adam. The rally was also meant to demand answers and accountability from Chicago police, she said.

Some of those answers may come in the release of the body camera footage, but Solano is partially reluctant to watch the “traumatizing” video.

“I can’t even imagine how it would feel for his mother to watch it,” she said. “And even if the video comes out, are the police really going to hold themselves accountable?”

A GoFundMe page has raised more than $50,000 for the Toledo family.

“Adam had many dreams that he will never get to live out,” Elizabeth Toledo wrote on the page. “Ironically one of his dreams was to become a police officer.”

Contributing: The Associated Press

Contact News Now Reporter Christine Fernando at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter at @christinetfern.

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