The recent shooting in Minnesota of Daunte Wright by a 26 year veteran of the Brooklyn Center P.D. when she believed she had a taser in her hand, accidently shooting and killing Daunte was hard to watch. I first asked myself, “Did he have a gun? Why was he resisting and trying to flee? Why didn’t he just comply with the officer’s orders?” I thought of these questions, and did some soul searching as I asked them. As I contemplated the reasoning behind Daunte’s shooting, his frame of mind and the officer’s fatal mistake, the body cam footage of the Chicago police shooting of Adam Toledo was released by COPA.
I fought with myself about watching the entire video and had no desire to see someone being shot, especially a 13 year old boy. My days of morbid fascination with Faces of Death and jihadi beheading videos have long since left me, and I have a hard time stomaching real violence. But I knew I had to see the entire video to come to a conclusion, albeit an opinionated one, about whether or not it was justified.
The CPD has a long, sordid history of violence and corruption in Chicago, with the conviction in 2011 of Detective Jon Burge due to his torture of over 200 innocent people to elicit confessions. Burge was a disgrace, and was reflective of the department and their reputation for brutality. I can not say that all cops are bad, but that is not the point. The point is No cop should be bad.
After viewing the Toledo video, I had to put what transpired into context. The young boy was out at 2am with 21 year old Ruben Roman in Little Village, a neighborhood on the southwest side of Chicago. Allegedly Ruben fired a handgun several times, the shot being picked up by nearby shot-detecting equipment. This alerted the police to respond. Officer Stillman of the CPD was the first on-scene, and ended up in a foot chase down with Toledo down an alley. Police bodycam shows Stillman yelling at Toledo to stop. Toledo stops near an opening in a fence, when Stillman yells at him to “drop it” (gun), which Toledo throws behind the fence and raises his empty hands in the air. Within a time frame of .0832 seconds, Stillman fires at Toledo, striking him in the chest. Stillman then performs CPR on Toledo, and other officers show up to the scene, finding the gun that Toledo tossed behind the fence. A few minutes later, Toledo is pronounced dead at the scene.
It was very hard for me to watch the video. The sight of a 13 year old dying in the alley is heart-wrenching. I thought of my own son, and how a deadly event like this could have happened. It raised more questions for me.
Why was Adam out so late and where was his family?
Who is really to blame here, the cop that shot Toledo, Ruben for handing him the gun, Toledo’s mother, society at large or economic disenfranchisement? These questions are debatable, and no doubt will once again cause opposing viewpoints to be at odds with one another, debating and yelling and reaching for each other’s throats while nothing gets accomplished.
I have come to this conclusion. The boy was out in the middle of the night, had a gun in his hand, and had run away from home in the past. He was young, misguided, and influenced by his surroundings. All that said, none of this is why people are protesting his death. They are protesting because, despite his troubles, Adam Toledo was unarmed at the time he shot. At 13 years old he was not a hardened criminal, and complied with the officer’s request. Stillman, within a millisecond, shouted for Adam to drop the gun (which he did and raised his empty hands) then fired. This is the problem. Stillman shouted a command, Adam complied, and was shot, all within less than a second. This is why people are protesting his death. Not because he was out at night, not even because he had a gun; We all know this is wrong. The fact is that Toledo was shot for complying with a command that the officer shouted at him, then shot instantly.
This is why reform in policing is needed. Not all cops are bad, but reform is needed to make headway into the socio-economic underlayment that is creating situations that allow for 13 year old boys to be shot by police.
Adam Toledo, RIP