By DON BABWIN and SARA BURNETT, Associated Press
CHICAGO (AP) — Body camera footage of a Chicago police officer fatally shooting a 13-year-old boy last month shows the officer yelling “Drop it!” at the teen right before he opens fire.
A still frame taken from the jumpy nighttime footage appears to show that Adam Toledo wasn’t holding anything and had his hands up, or partially up, when the officer shot him in the chest. Police say the teen had a handgun on him that morning, and the bodycam footage shows the officer shining a light on a handgun on the ground near Toledo after he shot him.
The footage shows that it took 19 seconds from which the officer exited his squad car to when he shot the teen. After getting out of the vehicle, the officer chases Toledo on foot down an alley for several seconds and yells “Police! Stop! Stop right (expletive) now!”
As the teen slows down, the officer yells “Hands! Hands! Show me your (expletive) hands!”
Toledo then turns toward the camera, the officer yells “Drop it!” and midway between repeating that command, he opens fire and the teen falls down. While approaching the wounded Toledo, the officer radios in for an ambulance. He can be heard imploring the boy to “stay awake,” and as other officers arrive, the officer who apparently fired the shot says he can’t feel a heartbeat and begins administering CPR. Other officers can be heard imploring Toledo to stay awake.
Before the video and other investigation materials were posted on the Civilian Office of Police Accountability’s website, Mayor Lori Lightfoot held a news conference during which she urged the public to remain peaceful and reserve judgment until the independent board can complete its investigation.
Choking up at times, Lightfoot decried the city’s long history of police violence and misconduct, especially in Black and Brown communities, and said too many young people are left vulnerable to “systemic failures that we simply must fix.”
“We live in a city that is traumatized by a long history of police violence and misconduct,” the mayor 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.”
Lightfoot described watching the footage as “excruciating.”
“As a mom, this is not something you want children to see,” said the mayor. She declined to say if the footage showed whether the teen was holding a gun when he was shot, but she called a prosecutor’s assertion at a recent hearing that Toledo had a gun when he was shot ”correct.”
In addition to posting the bodycam footage of the officer who shot Toledo, the review board released footage from other bodycams, four third-party videos, two audio recordings of 911 calls, and six audio recordings from ShotSpotter, which is the technology that alerted police to gunshots in the area and that led officers to respond.
The release comes in the wake of the traffic-stop shooting of Daunte Wright by an officer in a Minneapolis suburb that has sparked protests as the broader Minneapolis area nervously awaits the outcome of the trial of Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd.
In Chicago, police said officers responded to an area of the predominantly Latino and Black neighborhood Little Village on the city’s West Side before dawn on the morning of the shooting after a police technology detected gunshots there. The teen, who was Latino, and a 21-year-old man fled on foot when confronted by police, and an officer shot the teen once in the chest following a foot chase during what the department described as an armed confrontation.
Police said a handgun the boy had been carrying was recovered at the scene. The 21-year-old man was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of resisting arrest.
The review board initially said it couldn’t release the video because it involved the shooting of a minor, but it changed course after the mayor and police superintendent called for the video’s release.
“COPA’s core values of integrity and transparency are essential to building public trust, particularly in incidents related to an officer involved shooting, and we are unwavering in our commitment to uphold these values,” the board said in its statement Wednesday.
Footage of the Toledo shooting had been widely anticipated in the city, where the release of some previous police shooting videos sparked major protests, including the 2015 release of footage of a white officer shooting Black teenager Laquan McDonald 16 times, killing him.
Before the video’s release, some businesses in downtown Chicago’s “Magnificent Mile” shopping district boarded up their windows. Lightfoot said the city has been preparing for months for a verdict in the Chauvin trial and that it had activated a “neighborhood protection plan.”
“It happens now that these circumstances are sitting next to each other,” she said.
The Toledo family, meanwhile, issued a statement urging people to “remain peaceful.”
“We have heard reports in the media that more protests are planned today, and while we have no direct knowledge of such events, we pray that for the sake of our city, people remain peaceful to honor Adam’s memory and work constructively to promote reform,” said the family, which planned to hold a news conference later Thursday.
Before the video’s release, Lightfoot and attorneys for the family and city said in a joint statement that they agreed that in addition to the release of the video, all investigation materials should be made public, including a slowed-down compilation of what happened that morning.
“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,” the joint statement read. “We understand that the release of this video will be incredibly painful and elicit an emotional response to all who view it, and we ask that people express themselves peacefully.”
The Chicago Police Department has a long history of brutality and racism that has fomented mistrust among the city’s many Black and Hispanic residents. Adding to that mistrust is the city’s history of suppressing damning police videos.
The city fought for months to keep the public from seeing the 2014 video of a white officer shooting McDonald 16 times, killing him. The officer was eventually convicted of murder. And the city tried to stop a TV news station from broadcasting video of a botched 2019 police raid in which an innocent, naked, Black woman wasn’t allowed to put on clothes until after she was handcuffed.