April 19, 2021

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Chicago mayor calls for reform after 13-year-old Adam Toledo shot dead by police

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Police work at the scene of a fatal shooting of a 13-year-old boy by a Chicago Police officer on Monday, March 29, 2021 in Chicago.

CHICAGO — Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Monday called for reforms to how police pursue suspects on foot and urged a “thorough, expeditious” investigation into the death of a  13-year-old boy who was fatally shot by a Chicago police officer last week.

Adam Toledo, who dreamed of becoming a police officer, was killed March 29 after police chased him into an alley. Tensions remain high across the city as the Civilian Office of Police Accountability prepares to release what it termed “troubling video footage” of the shooting. 

Lightfoot said the tragedy emphasizes the need to reform Chicago police foot pursuit policy, saying they are one of the most dangerous activities police engage in because they are often separated from their partners and communication becomes difficult.

She said there will be focus groups of officers and community members to evaluate best practices on foot pursuit policies.

“We cannot and will not push the foot pursuit reform off for another day,” Lightfoot said Monday at a press conference at New Life Church on the city’s West Side. “No longer can we afford to put off to tomorrow what we can address today because lives are truly at stake.”

On Monday, Lightfoot said she spoke briefly with Adam’s mother, Elizabeth Toledo, to offer her condolences and thanked them for their “passionate call for peace.”

“Let us not forget that a mother’s child is dead,” she said. “Siblings are without their brother. And this community is again grieving.”

Adam’s family has asked for calm amid reports that gang factions in the city have been instructed to retaliate by shooting at unmarked police cars. 

Police said they issued an “officer safety alert” alleging that the Narcotics Division had received information about the retaliation.

“No one has anything to gain by inciting violence,” Adam’s mother, Elizabeth Toledo, said in the statement. “Adam was a sweet and loving boy. He would not want anyone else to be injured or die in his name.”

Officials on Monday did not elaborate on the reports.

“My hope is that these gang members aren’t foolish enough to do something,” Lightfoot said Monday. 

Chicago police officer placed on administrative duty after fatal ‘armed confrontation’ with 13-year-old boy

Police say officers were dispatched to a largely Latino neighborhood in the city’s West Side on March 29 after the department’s ShotSpotter technology detected eight gunshots. When police arrived, Adam and a 21-year-old man fled, according to Chicago Police Department Superintendent David Brown.

Brown said one was armed with a hand gun but police have not said whose gun it was.

There was an “armed confrontation” during which the officer shot Adam once in the chest, police said. He died at the scene. The 21-year-old man was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of resisting arrest.

The officer who shot Adam, whose identity has not yet been released, has been placed on administrative leave for 30 days, which Brown said is “routine protocol.”

The Civilian Office of Police Accountability, or COPA, initially said it was prohibited from releasing the video because Adam is a minor. But the agency changed course on Friday, saying state law “does not bar publication of the body worn and third-party video camera footage the agency has obtained.” Brown said COPA would have the the police department’s full cooperation.

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The city has a troubled history of trying to suppress video, including in the 2014 killing of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. The officer who shot the Black teenager 16 times eventually was convicted of murder.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Police Superintendent David Brown urged release of the video from Adam Toledo’s death.

“The split-second decision to use deadly force is extremely difficult for any officer and is always a heavy burden to bear for officers involved in fatal shooting incidents,” Brown said.

City policy requires public posting of material no later than 60 days after the incident, but COPA said it would release the video shortly after the Toledo family has a chance to view it.

The Fraternal Order of Police in Chicago said video evidence would show the shooting was justified.

“The officer was absolutely shaken by the circumstances of which happened that night because a life was taken,” union president John Catanzara said in a video statement. “But it was justified. The offender was fleeing from the police with a weapon. It’s irregardless that he was 13 years old.”

A GoFundMe page has raised almost $50,000 for the family. There will be a community vigil with a balloon release at 4:30 p.m. CT Monday at 24th and Sawyer in the Little Village neighborhood where Adam died. 

“Adam had many dreams that he will never get to live out,” Elizabeth Toledo wrote on the page. “Ironically one of his dreams was to become a police officer.”

Contributing: The Associated Press

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