Trial begins for man who allegedly was with Adam Toledo the night 13-year-old was killed by CPD officer

Ruben Roman, who was 21 when Toledo killed in 2021, faces charges for allegedly shooting at a car shortly before fatal footchase with police.

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Dozens of protesters march down the Magnificent Mile after the city of Chicago released the videos of 13-year-old Adam Toledo being fatally shot by a Chicago police officer in 2021. The trial of Ruben Roman, the 22-year-old who allegedly was with Toledo and drew police to the area by firing multiple gunshots at a passing car, began Wednesday at the Leighton Criminal Court Building.

Dozens of protesters march down the Magnificent Mile after the city of Chicago released the videos of 13-year-old Adam Toledo being fatally shot by a Chicago police officer in 2021. The trial of Ruben Roman, the 22-year-old who allegedly was with Toledo and drew police to the area by firing multiple gunshots at a passing car, began Wednesday at the Leighton Criminal Court Building.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times file photo

The trial of a man who allegedly was with Adam Toledo the night the 13-year-old was fatally shot by a Chicago Police officer opened Wednesday in a near-empty courtroom at the Leighton Criminal Court Building.

Ruben Roman, 22, faces four counts related to allegedly shooting at a car in the 2400 block of South Sawyer Avenue in the early morning hours of March 29, 2021. Those shots, Assistant State’s Attorney John Henning said, drew police to the street corner and touched off a footchase that ended with the 13-year-old dead in a nearby alley.

After roughly three hours of testimony, prosecutors closed out their case. The trial resumes Thursday.

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In the spring of 2021, Toledo’s death sparked protests across the city, with demonstrators outraged by police body-worn camera footage that showed Toledo’s hands were raised and empty — at least for a critical, split second — as CPD Officer Eric Stillman fired a single shot as the teen turned to face the officer.

Wednesday, the gallery of Judge Charles Burns’ courtroom was empty. So, too, was the jury box; Roman opted for a bench trial.

With no jury, the trial proceeded at a brisk pace. Toledo was mentioned only occasionally, and as is common with minors during court proceedings, identified by his initials, “A.T.” While Roman was initially charged with child endangerment, he was indicted only on gun charges, meaning the trial has focused on evidence that Roman fired multiple shots at a car shortly before police arrived — with a gun that was recovered from near where the seventh-grader was shot.

Henning played video from surveillance cameras, and the body-worn device worn by Stillman’s partner, Officer Corina Gallegos, and not the wrenching video from Stillman’s camera. Stillman, who shoved Roman to the ground before sprinting after Toledo, was not called to testify.

Henning said grainy security camera footage from a nearby church showed Toledo standing with Roman as Roman shot at a car near the intersection of West 24th Street and South Sawyer Avenue. Gallegos’ camera also showed her struggling to put Roman in handcuffs, and a pair of gloves, which later tested positive for gunshot residue, on the pavement nearby.

Roman’s lawyer, Assistant Public Defender Celeste Addyman, said there were no witnesses who saw Roman shooting, and no way to link Roman to the gun Toledo was carrying or the gloves.

“Ballistics do not connect Mr. Roman with the gun,” said Addyman in her brief opening statement, noting that the gun was recovered from Toledo, and the 13-year-old did have gunshot residue on his hands while Roman’s were clean.

Nearly a year after the shooting, State’s Attorney Kim Foxx announced she would not bring charges against Stillman despite public outcry, leaving Roman the only person to face criminal charges in connection with the seventh-grader’s death.

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