Disturbing video of boy holding up hands before shooting death

·5-min read

WARNING – DISTRESSING CONTENT: Disturbing body camera video, released 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.

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 former police officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd.

A still frame taken from Officer Eric Stillman’s jumpy night-time bodycam footage shows Adam Toledo wasn’t holding anything and had his hands up when the policeman, 34, shot him once in the chest about 3am (local time) on March 29.

A still from bodycam footage shows Adam Toledo with his hands raised without a weapon in his hand.
Bodycam footage shows Adam Toledo with his hands raised without a weapon in his hand the moment before he was shot by police. Source: COPA

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 Adam after he shot him.

The footage shows it took 19 seconds from which Stillman exited his squad car to when he shot the teen. After getting out of the vehicle, the officer chases Adam on foot down an alley for several seconds and yells: “Police! Stop! Stop right f***ing now!”

As the teen slows down, Stillman yells: “Hands! Hands! Show me your f***ing hands!”

Adam 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 Adam, 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 Adam to stay awake.

Chicago 'must fix failures', mayor says

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, Mayor Lightfoot decried the city’s long history of police violence and misconduct, especially in Black and brown communities, and said too many young people were left vulnerable to “systemic failures that we simply must fix”.

“We live in a city that is traumatised 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. 

Pictured is Adam Toledo.
Adam was 13 when he was shot last month by police. Source: NBC

"It is even clearer that trust between our community and law enforcement is far from healed and remains badly broken.”

The mayor described watching the footage as “excruciating”.

“As a mum, this is not something you want children to see,” the mayor said. 

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 Adam had a gun when he was shot ”correct".

Small groups of protesters gathered at a police station and marched downtown on Thursday night, but there were few signs of widespread demonstrations in the city.

In addition to posting the bodycam footage of the officer who shot Adam, 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 shooting remains under investigation. 

Stillman has been placed on administrative duty pending an inquiry's outcome which will determine whether he followed procedure on use of force.

The officer is a white military veteran with no prior disciplinary issues.

Protesters holding signs navigate along Chicago's South Michigan Avenue during a peaceful protest, Wednesday, April 14, 2021, ahead of the video release of the fatal police shooting of 13-year-old Adam Toledo.
Protesters calling for justice march through Chicago on Wednesday. Source: AP

Police described incident as 'armed confrontation'

Police said officers responded to an area of the predominantly Latino and Black neighbourhood Little Village on the city’s West Side before dawn on the morning of the shooting after a police technology detected gun shots there. 

The teen, who was Latino, and a 21-year-old man fled on foot when confronted by police. 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 misdemeanour 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.

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