CHICAGO — Mayor Lori Lightfoot called for a new foot pursuit policy to be implemented by the Chicago Police Department before the start of summer after a city officer shot and killed Adam Toledo, 13, last week following a chase.
On Monday, Lightfoot also called for an investigation into how the boy came into possession of a gun, saying an adult gave a weapon to a teen and must be held accountable, Chicago Tribune reported.
“This is a complicated story. It’s not my story to tell, particularly not as our understanding of the facts is evolving,” Lightfoot said. “What I do know and what I will say is Ms. Toledo and her family need our love and support in this moment, not our withering judgment.”
Lightfoot and police Superintendent David Brown spoke at New Life Church in the Little Village neighborhood as part of an event aimed at calming the city ahead of the eventual release of video of the incident.
“This is a tragedy. The most tragic of circumstances,” Brown said. “Let’s not make it worse by rushing to judgment.”
He focused his remarks on why officials didn’t divulge Adam Toledo’s age or identity publicly for three days after the shooting. Brown added to information already provided by the Police Department on Friday by saying that on March 26, Toledo’s mother walked into the Ogden District station, reported him missing at 6:58 p.m. and the information was entered in a police database at 7:18 p.m.
The next day, a detective followed up with Adam’s mother, Elizabeth Toledo, who then indicated he returned home and her son’s name was removed from Police Department records as him being missing, Brown said.
After Adam Toledo was killed, a 21-year-old man, Ruben Roman, was arrested at the scene. Brown said he provided police with a different name for the teen who was shot — eventually identified as Adam — and was charged with misdemeanor resisting or obstructing a peace officer, the Tribune reported.
“And we lost considerable time trying to identify Adam because of the wrong name,” said Brown.”
Brown said police fingerprinted Adam Toledo three times and found no records for him. Investigators combed through missing persons reports from the Ogden District, where the shooting occurred, and on the North Side, as well as reports of missing people who were eventually found safe, said Brown.
On Wednesday, two days after the 13-year-old’s death, police contacted his mother at about 1 p.m. and told her a description of her son matched that of an unidentified person at the Cook County medical examiner’s office, Brown said. His mother at that point said she had not seen her son for several days, and she identified him at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday at the medical examiner’s office.
“Ms. Toledo had not made a second missing-persons report,” Brown said. “So, no report was on file for the second time Adam left home.”
It wasn’t until Thursday when the medical examiner’s office and the Police Department first acknowledged publicly that Adam Toledo was 13, making him the youngest person fatally shot by Chicago police in years. Brown acknowledged Monday that he was alerted the night of the shooting that the person killed, who had not yet been identified, “seemed very young.”
He was fatally shot in the chest at about 2:30 a.m. March 29 in a Little Village neighborhood alley near 24th Street and Sawyer Avenue by an on-duty officer responding to a call of shots fired in the area.
Lightfoot’s call for police policy changes comes four years after the U.S. Justice Department recommended in a report about CPD’s practices that it adopt a foot pursuit policy. None has been put into place despite concerns about how dangerous foot pursuits can be for the officers and the public.
According to a Chicago Tribune investigative report in 2016, foot chases played a role in more than a third of the 235 officer involved shootings in the city from 2010 through 2015 that ended with someone wounded or killed.
In 2017, the Justice Department’s investigation into Chicago’s police practices noted that foot pursuits are “inherently dangerous and present substantial risks to officers and the public.”
In 2018, Lightfoot criticized the draft of a court-ordered consent decree the Chicago Police Department now finds itself under for saying a determination on whether a new policy was needed could wait until 2021. Speaking Monday, Lightfoot said a foot pursuit policy can’t be pushed off “for another day” though she didn’t address why she hadn’t prioritized the issue in the nearly two years since she became mayor.
But, she said, CPD established guidelines for foot pursuits in February. Last month, the consent decree’s independent monitor completed an assessment of data related to Chicago police foot pursuits and determined that the department should adopt a foot pursuit policy.
The monitor found that foot pursuits in which officers used force that did or could have resulted in death had increased since the previous review — up from 3% to 7.7%.
The report examined the period between March and December 2020.
Last week, the Police Department first released some details of Adam’s shooting, including that he was believed to have had a gun during the fatal encounter with the officer. On Friday, the Toledo family’s lawyer said that detail surprises Adam’s family.
“At this time, the family doesn’t have all the information,” the lawyer, Adeena Weiss Ortiz, told reporters Friday afternoon outside her law office in west suburban La Grange Park. “And they are encouraging the full cooperation of (the Civilian Office of Police Accountability) and the Chicago Police Department, and transparency in obtaining the video as soon as possible as mentioned by our mayor, Mayor Lori Lightfoot.”
COPA, which is investigating whether the officer who pulled the trigger was justified in shooting the teen, will likely show video footage of the shooting to the Toledo family later this week. Brown said he has viewed the video, but declined to elaborate. Lightfoot, meanwhile, said she has not yet watched it and will wait for Elizabeth Toledo to view it first, the Tribune reported.
It’s unclear when the footage will be released publicly, but according to city policy, video of police-involved shootings, as well as the accompanying paperwork, must be made public within 60 days of the incident, unless officials request a 30-day extension after that.
Initially last week, COPA said it would be prohibited from releasing video of the shooting because Toledo was a minor and publicizing the footage would violate the state’s Juvenile Court Act. But on Friday, COPA announced there were legal avenues that allow the agency to release the video, deviating from a long-standing policy to withhold video of fatal police shootings of minors.