On Thursday, Chicago officials released bodycam footage of the fatal 29th March shooting of 13-year-old Adam Toledo. The graphic video (which Refinery29 is not linking directly to in this article) shows a police officer chasing the 7th grader down an alleyway. The officer is heard yelling, "Stop right there!" then cursing as he screams at Toledo to show him his hands. Toledo then stops, turns towards the officer, and puts his hands up. Not even two seconds later, the officer fatally shoots the child in the chest.
The bodycam footage that was released includes a series of 17 videos, which together show exactly how Toledo was killed. And these videos are circulating rapidly in the wake of the fatal police shooting of 20-year-old Daunte Wright and during the ongoing trial of Derek Chauvin, who killed George Floyd. Prior to the release of the bodycam footage, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot attempted to quell the justifiable outrage of the shooting of a child by a member of law enforcement: "We all must proceed with deep empathy and calm, and importantly, peace," she said. "No family should ever have a video broadcast widely of their child's last moments, much less be placed in the terrible situation of losing their child in the first place."
However, no family should be lied to about the death of their child, either — and it seems law enforcement and the District Attorney (DA) were not forthcoming about the events that took place late last month before the footage was released.
Toledo was chased by police after local officers were dispatched and alerted of gunfire in the area around 2.36am on 29th March. The teenager ran from officers, who were also chasing (and eventually captured) 21-year-old Ruben Roman. At 2.46am, only ten minutes after the initial dispatch, Toledo was pronounced dead.
In the aftermath, officers and public officials painted Toledo as an armed threat. During a bond hearing for Roman, Cook County Assistant State's Attorney James Murphy claimed Toledo had "a gun in his right hand" when he turned toward the officer. But the now-released footage shows otherwise: Toledo was unarmed, had his hand raised, complied with the officer's order to stop, and was still gunned down so quickly, he wasn't even given a chance.
In response to backlash toward Chicago police and officials for concealing details, Sarah Sinovic, a spokesperson for Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx, told Chicago news station WGN Investigates that "an attorney who works in this office failed to fully inform himself before speaking in court."
But the alleged mistake here raises additional questions as to how far police officers, district attorneys, and others in positions of power will go not just to avoid holding police departments accountable for the continued murder of Black and brown people, but the efforts they'll make to cover for one another.
The shooting also calls into question how even bodycam footage fails to hold law enforcement accountable for their use of violence. "The police officer was put in this split-second situation where he has to make a decision," Timothy Grace, a lawyer representing the Fraternal Order of Police in Chicago, said. Despite Grace's statement, the fact that there is footage of a 13-year-old child being gunned down by police appears to, at this moment, be of no consequence.
Whether or not Toledo had a gun in his hand at the point of confrontation is irrelevant. Possessing a firearm, even illegally, is not an offence punishable by death, and police officers are not meant to be judges — or executioners. And if he did have a weapon on him at that moment, what he needed was support and safety — help to address why he would feel the need to supposedly brandish a firearm; accountability on behalf of those who helped him allegedly obtain a weapon; more common-sense gun laws that would close any loopholes that make it possible for young people to get their hands on deadly weapons.
What the 7th grader — who was goofy, curious, and loved zombie movies, according to his grieving mother — did not need, was a bullet in his chest.