Video: Chicago boy wasn’t holding gun when shot by officer

Some footage may be disturbing for some viewers. Viewer discretion is advised.

CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — Disturbing bodycam video released Thursday after public outcry over the Chicago police shooting of a 13-year-old boy shows the youth appearing to drop a handgun and begin raising his hands less than a second before an officer fires his gun and kills him.

A still frame taken from Officer Eric Stillman’s jumpy nighttime body camera footage shows that Adam Toledo wasn’t holding anything and had his hands up when Stillman shot him once in the chest about 3 a.m. on March 29. Police, who were responding to reports of shots fired in the area, say the boy had a handgun on him before the shooting. And Stillman’s footage shows him shining a light on a handgun on the ground near Toledo after he shot him.

The Civilian Office of Police Accountability, an independent board that investigates Chicago police shootings, released the footage of the March 29 fatal shooting of Toledo after allowing the boy’s family to view it Tuesday. The Toledo family urged people to “remain peaceful” ahead of the footage’s release.

The review board declined to release all but the most basic details of what happened. 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.

Along with 17 police bodyworn camera videos, COPA also released four third-party videos, several police radio transmissions, two audio 911 calls, CPD incident reports and six audio recordings from ShotSpotter, the technology that alerted police to gunshots in that area. Footage of the officer chasing then shooting Toledo along with the officer rendering aid to Toledo was released.

This video has been edited to stop at the moment just before 13-year-old Adam Toledo is shot. This may be disturbing for some viewers. Viewer discretion is advised.

Chicago police said officers responded to an area of Little Village on the city’s West Side before dawn on March 29 after a police technology detected gun shots there. The teen, who was Latino, and a 21-year-old man, Ruben Roman, 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.

In the jumpy body camera video of the officer who shot Toledo, the officer chases the teen 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 drops to the ground. 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 saying, “Stay with me, buddy,” “Stay awake, bud. Come on bud, stay awake,” and “Come on, big guy.”

Police said the handgun the boy had been carrying was recovered at the scene. Roman was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of resisting arrest.

13-year-old Adam Toledo, via NewsNation affiliate WGN

Some details did emerge at a hearing for Roman who authorities say was with Toledo the night he died, including prosecutors’ contention that the man fired the gun several times before officers arrived and had handed it to the teen.

The officer, who was placed on administrative leave per department policy in police-involved shootings, has been identified as Officer Eric Stillman, according to COPA records. He is a six-year veteran and records indicate Stillman was awarded the Superintendent’s Award of Valor in 2016. The award is given to officers “for an act of outstanding bravery or heroism by which the member has demonstrated in great degree the characteristics of selflessness, personal courage, and devotion to duty,” according to the CPD.

Footage of the shooting was 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.

“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,” the family said in a statement.

Adeena Weiss-Ortiz, an attorney for Toledo’s family, told reporters after the footage and other videos were released that they “speak for themselves.”

“Adam, during the last second of his life, did not have a gun in his hand. The officer screamed at him, ‘Show me your hands.’ Adam complied,” she said.

Weiss-Ortiz said it’s irrelevant whether Toledo was holding a gun before he turned toward the officer.

“If he had a gun, he tossed it. The officer said show me your hands, he complied. He turned around,” she said.

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.

On Thursday, before the video’s release, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and attorneys for the family and city said in a joint statement that they agreed Wednesday 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. 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.    

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. We ask that you continue to respect the Toledo family’s privacy during this incredibly painful and difficult time. 

MAYOR LORI LIGHTFOOT AND THE TOLEDO FAMILY

Lightfoot held a news conference before the release of the footage. Lightfoot, who at times during the press conference became emotional, said viewers of the video need to proceed with peace, empathy and calmness.

“No parent should ever have a video broadcast widely of their child’s last moments,” Lightfoot said.

The mayor said, “we have failed Adam,” and said there are too many young people in Chicago who have been left vulnerable by systemic failures that the city needs to face.

A key detail raised in court about Toledo’s appeared to be wrong, NewsNation affiliate WGN-TV learned moments before the city released those videos.

During a bond hearing for Roman, 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.” 

In response to a WGN Investigates inquiry, the state’s attorney’s office said 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. 

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.

“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.”

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. The city also tried to stop a TV news station from broadcasting a 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.

Reporting by WGN’s Patrick Elwood, Glenn Marshall, Melissa Espana and AP’s Don Babwin. NewsNation affiliate WGN and The Associated Press contributed to this report.