The death of a 13-year-old boy, who dreamed of joining the police but was gunned down by a cop in an “armed confrontation” this week, has horrified the crime-weary city of Chicago, prompting demands for answers from the mayor on down.
The Cook County Medical Examiner confirmed to The Daily Beast that Adam Toledo died of a gunshot wound to the chest on Monday. His death, which occurred after a confrontation with Chicago police in Little Village, has been classified as a homicide.
The boy’s family, community leaders, and even Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot are demanding police release the body-camera videos of the incident. The officer involved in the shooting has been put on desk duty for at least 30 days pending an investigation.
“Adam was a seventh-grade student at [Gary Elementary] School, enjoyed sports, and was a good kid. He did not deserve to die the way he did,” the Toledo family said in a Friday statement.
The family said Adam was killed “due to the unreasonable conduct of a Chicago Police Officer” and they would “seek justice for this reprehensible crime.” They added that they were only notified of Adam’s death two days after he was killed.
“We are confident that the Chicago Police Department and the Civilian Office of Police Accountability will conduct a thorough investigation, that there will be transparency, and that Toledo Family will find out the truth of what happened to Adam.”
Police said the incident began at around 2:35 a.m. on Monday when officers responded to a call of “multiple shots fired in the 200 block of S. Sawyer.” When they arrived, they found two males—later identified as Toledo and 21-year-old Ruben Roman Jr.—“in a nearby alley” and at least one was armed. Police said the armed person ran from the scene, prompting officers to start a foot pursuit that ended in an “armed confrontation.”
“The officer fired his weapon striking the offender in the chest,” a Chicago Police Department spokesperson said in a statement. “A weapon was recovered and the offender was pronounced deceased on scene.”
Police said Roman was taken into custody and charged with misdemeanor resisting or obstructing a peace officer. According to court records, Roman pleaded guilty in 2019 to possessing an illegal gun and was sentenced to probation.
In a Thursday interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, the teenager’s mother, Elizabeth Toledo, said she last saw her son the day before the shooting when they attended a memorial service for a relative. She said she didn’t know what prompted the incident and she “just wants answers about what really happened.”
“I haven’t heard from cops since yesterday when they knocked on my door,” she said on Thursday.
The mother-of-four said her son was “always happy,” loved animals, and had a dream of joining the police.
“He wanted to be a cop when he grew up,” Toledo said. “And next thing you know, a cop took his life.”
Monday’s tragic shooting comes as Chicago battles a siege of homicides and shootings. According to the Chicago Tribune, 134 people have been killed this year alone, which is higher than the same period in 2020. Last year had already been the worst year for gun-related homicides on record, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office.
Amid outrage over Toledo’s death, Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown released a statement on Thursday, calling it a “tragedy” and insisting he adamantly wanted to release body-cam footage.
“My greatest fear as the Superintendent of the Chicago Police Department has been a deadly encounter between one of our own and a juvenile, especially given the recent rise in violent crimes involving juveniles throughout our city,” Brown said. “Unfortunately, this fear became a reality earlier this week. Any loss of life is tragic, especially when it involves youth. On behalf of the entire Chicago Police Department, I extend my condolences to the family of the juvenile.”
The shooting is being investigated by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability. While the COPA initially said the bodycam footage could not be released without a court order because of the Juvenile Court Act, which prohibits them from sharing videos of minor victims, the agency said Friday the footage will be made public.
“COPA has determined that certain provisions of state law intended to protect the confidentiality of juvenile records do not prohibit the agency’s release of material related to its investigation,” the agency said in a statement. It added that the act “does not bar publication of the body-worn and third-party video camera footage the agency has obtained to date.”
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot took to Twitter on Thursday to urge the release of the footage, adding that she “can only imagine the incredible pain this boy’s parents are experiencing at this moment.”
“Because his family and the public will undoubtedly have many questions, we must release any relevant videos as soon as possible,” Lightfoot said, noting that it is among “the most complex cases that COPA investigates” and “transparency and speed are crucial.”
“We must ask ourselves how our social safety net failed this boy leading to the tragic events in the early hours of Monday morning,” she said.