The city of Chicago on Thursday released video of the fatal police shooting of 13-year-old Adam Toledo, sparking protests and emotional reactions to what Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the boy's family both called the "incredibly painful" release.
The Civilian Office of Police Accountability - Chicago's police oversight agency investigating the shooting - released the videos and other materials two days after Adam's family was shown the footage and 17 days after the shooting itself, which took place in the early morning hours of March 29.
The body camera video of the shooting itself shows the officer driving to the scene in the Little Village neighborhood, exiting his vehicle and running down an alley, yelling at Adam to stop and put his hands up.
The officer fires one fatal shot as Adam turns and raises his hands, the boy illuminated by a flashing light that appears to show that both of his hands were empty.
Minutes after the shooting, the footage shows another officer shine a flashlight on a gun on the ground behind the fence near where Adam was shot. A surveillance video from across the parking lot, though recorded from a distance, appears to show Adam make a tossing motion with his right hand behind the fence before turning to face the approaching officer, who then immediately fired.
Several protests took place around the Chicago area after the video was released, including one that briefly shutdown northbound Michigan Avenue near the Chicago River. Another protest took place in the city’s Union Park neighborhood, with demonstrators marching to the headquarters of the Fraternal Order of Police.
Lightfoot and the boy's family together called for people to "express themselves peacefully" following the "incredibly painful" release.
"I have seen those videos and let me just say that they are incredibly difficult to watch, particularly at the end," Lightfoot said at a news conference ahead of the release.
"These videos and these moments are never easy to bear witness to, regardless of the circumstances," Lightfoot continued. "And what I've learned is that you need to brace yourself beforehand. Let yourself feel the pain and anguish and shock of these traumatic events to avoid becoming numb as you watch."
Lightfoot said she saw "no evidence whatsoever" that Adam fired any shots at police as she renewed calls for federal action on gun laws as well as a review of the Chicago Police Department's policy on foot pursuits.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker in a statement on Thursday said Adam's family is "living a parent's worst nightmare."
“As a father, I know to my core that Adam Toledo’s family is living a parent’s worst nightmare. My heart goes out to all who love him,” Pritzker said. “Parents deserve neighborhoods that will nurture their kids. Children deserve to be safe. Communities deserve to live with hope for the future. Adam Toledo, a 13-year-old child, was shot to death. This is a moment that calls for justice for our children and accountability in all our public institutions. The State of Illinois is committed to this work, whether it is transforming our justice system or investing in communities to create durable and long-term progress.”
The Chicago City Council Latino Caucus called Adam's death "a tragedy by all measures" and pushed for the passage of an ordinance to create a commission of community members with jurisdiction over Chicago Police Department leadership and policy, among other changes.
"Our deepest condolences and love go out to Adam’s mother and the Toledo family as they mourn the death of their son, a 7th grader at Gary Elementary School, a member of our community — who shared the same struggles, aspirations, and tribulations that our immigrant families often face," the Latino Caucus said in a statement. "Our hearts are with the Toledo family and all the mothers who are doing everything they can to raise their kids in a city that has prioritized police more than our children."
"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," Lightfoot and the Toledo family's legal team said in a joint statement Thursday morning ahead of the release.
"COPA's investigation is ongoing as we seek to determine the full facts in this case. To that end, we call for full cooperation with COPA. We remain committed to working together toward reform," the statement continued. "We ask that you continue to respect the Toledo family’s privacy during this incredibly painful and difficult time."
At the time, police said officers responded to an alert of shots fired at 2:37 a.m. in the 2300 block of South Sawyer and saw two males in a nearby alley. Both fled, according to police, who said the officers chased them and one opened fire, shooting Adam in the chest. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
In a bond hearing for the 21-year-old man facing multiple charges after authorities said he was with Adam at the time of the shooting, a prosecutor with the Cook County State's Attorney's Office described the events of the video, saying Adam was holding a gun in his hand.
But on Thursday, a spokeswoman for the State's Attorney's office said that attorney "failed to fully inform himself before speaking in court," adding, "errors like that cannot happen and this has been addressed with the individual involved." The spokeswoman then pointed to the video of the shooting, which she said "speaks for itself."
Immediately after the shooting, COPA initially said it would not publicly release body camera video of the shooting because of state law governing cases involving a juvenile, but reversed course under public pressure and said it would release the "troubling footage" once Adam's family was able to see it first.
COPA noted Wednesday that it is "committed to completing a full, thorough and objective investigation of the entire incident which includes not only the officer’s use of deadly force but also the actions of other involved officers leading up to and following the deadly shooting to determine whether each officers’ actions complied with Department policy directives and training."
COPA is leading the investigation into the shooting and the officer has been placed on administrative duties for 30 days in accordance with CPD policy.