The shooting of Adam Toledo; Update: Did Toledo have a gun?

The shooting of Adam Toledo; Update: Did Toledo have a gun?

Thirteen years old.

The release of the police body cam footage is big news in Chicago this afternoon, with Mayor Lori Lightfoot calling for calm at a moment when the Derek Chauvin trial is winding down and the prosecution of the cop who shot Daunte Wright is just getting going. Toledo was killed by a Chicago cop on March 29 after police responded to a report of gunshots fired in the area. He was out with a 21-year-old named Ruben Roman at 2:30 in the morning; according to the Daily Beast, footage reviewed by prosecutors showed that it was Roman who fired the shots that got the cops’ attention. What they were doing out at that time of night is unclear but the two of them took off when police arrived and gave chase. Cops managed to run down Roman, tackling him and arresting him, but Toledo kept going with an officer in pursuit on foot.

You can watch for yourself what happened next. The foot chase begins at around 1:45. Be warned that the footage is graphic: You’re watching a child die, and the camera gets up close when the officer moves in to render aid.

“Show me your f***ing hands! Drop it!” the cop orders him. And … Toledo does, as far as I can tell. He’s trying to show the cop his hands. And he’s shot within a split second.

The burning question this afternoon is whether he had a gun, a point on which the authorities’ story has changed in recent days. Hmmm:

An officer shot Adam once in the chest after an “armed confrontation” in an alley, police said. Prosecutors say the boy was holding a gun when the officer shot him…

Earlier this month, Lightfoot suggested Adam was holding a gun, saying “an adult put a gun in a child’s hand.” But on Thursday, Lightfoot’s phrasing changed, and she said Adam was “a child who was in contact with an adult who had a gun.”

At one point prosecutors had claimed that Toledo had a gun in his right hand when he turned towards the officer and that it fell from his grasp when he was shot. Allegedly shell casings found at the site confirmed that it was the same gun that Roman had been firing. But at some point prosecutors walked that back:

During a bond hearing for 21-year-old Ruben Roman, who was with Adam the night of the shooting, Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney James Murphy described the altercation in a proffer: “The officer tells [Toledo] to drop it as [Toledo] turns towards the officer. [Toledo] has a gun in his right hand.”

But now, in response to a WGN Investigates inquiry, the state’s attorney’s office says the detail about Adam having a gun in his hand the moment he was shot was inaccurate.

“An attorney who works in this office failed to fully inform himself before speaking in court,” Sarah Sinovic, a spokesperson for Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, told WGN Investigates Thursday.

Where did Lightfoot and the D.A. get the idea that Toledo had a gun in his hand? They’ve had the body cam video since March 29. Having watched it several times, I don’t see anything. Although the confrontation happens quickly enough that it’s hard to be sure.

A gun was found near Toledo, it appears, and is visible in parts of another cop’s body cam video:

An obvious possibility is that, when Roman saw the cops heading towards them, he handed the gun to Toledo and told him to take off. A minor caught with an illegal weapon would be handled more leniently than an adult. Maybe Toledo tossed the gun to get rid of the evidence as he was running from the cop, or maybe he had it in his waistband and it fell out while he was running. Whatever the explanation, as far as one can tell from the body cam footage, he was complying with the officer’s instructions when he was shot. Possibly the cop expected him to halt and put up his hands without turning around; once Toledo began to turn, the officer may have panicked and thought he was about to fire. He did have reason to believe that Toledo or Roman or both had weapons, after all, as police had detected gunshots earlier. But if there was visual confirmation that Toledo was brandishing, it’s not obvious from the footage. What a horrendous tragedy.

Update: I didn’t see this before when watching the vid but this is compelling evidence. This screencap makes it look like Toledo had the gun in his right hand just moments before he was shot:

Toledo must have had the gun in his hand while he was being chased. He slowed down and stopped near the opening in the fence with the gun in his right hand while the cop was screaming at him to put his hands up. Then, it seems, he tossed the gun a few feet away before turning to face the officer and putting his hands up. The cop may have seen the gun in his hand as he slowed down but didn’t see Toledo toss it just before he started to turn. So when Toledo was suddenly facing him, he may have thought the kid was about to shoot.

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David Strom 5:21 PM on June 02, 2023