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 bodycam video doesn’t show Adam throwing away the weapon before he was shot.
When his hands were raised, he didn’t appear to be holding a weapon. Another video shows Adam apparently throwing something through a gap on the other side of the fence, and police video shows officers’ discovering a gun at that spot.
The officer’s body camera shows the officer chasing Adam down an alley in Little Village at about 2:38 a.m. on March 29.
The officer yells “police, stop” and then orders him to show his hands. The video 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 another officer immediately calls for an ambulance.
The Chicago Police Department gave reporters an advance look at the video before the Civilian Office of Police Accountability released it to the public. One version of the video was played in slow motion.
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.”
But the video likely will raise additional questions, because Adam’s hands were in the air at the moment he was shot, and he no longer appears to have a gun.
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 Adam’s death.
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. The family says it’s conducting its own investigation.
The officer, 34, who shot Adam had joined the force in 2015, according to police sources.
The Invisible Institute, a website that 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 officer tried to save Adam, using chest compressions, but he died there.
The Cook County state’s attorney’s office didn’t mention that Adam’s hands were raised when he was shot.
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 a 21-year-old who was on probation for a gun offense. That man, Ruben 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 2014 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 17-year-old McDonald 16 times as he wielded a knife, was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to more than six years in prison.