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Toledo shooting ‘tragic and horrific,’ alderman says after viewing video

Ald. Chris Taliaferro, a former Chicago police officer, chairs the City Council’s Committee on Public Safety. He wouldn’t say if the shooting was justified because he doesn’t want to prejudice what he hopes will be a “thorough and quick” investigation by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability.

A still frame from video recorded by a Chicago police officer’s body-worn camera shows Adam Toledo in the alley where he was shot.
A still frame from video recorded by a Chicago police officer’s body-worn camera shows Adam Toledo in the alley where he was shot. The object in his right hand might be a gun; one was recovered in the alley, according to police.
Screenshot from COPA video

Hours before it was publicly released, Mayor Lori Lightfoot arranged for a private showing of the Adam Toledo shooting video for her City Council leadership team. Top police brass walked aldermen through it.

Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th), the former Chicago Police officer who chairs the City Council’s Committee on Public Safety, came away from that showing as emotional as he had expected to be.

“It’s both tragic and it’s horrific. It’s tragic because you see the death of a young 13-year-old that was on the street early in the morning. And it’s horrific, just absorbing the fact that there’s a life lost. A 13-year-old that didn’t realize the potential he had,” the chairman said.

Taliaferro refused to say whether or not the shooting was justifiable. He doesn’t want to prejudice what he hopes will be a “thorough and quick” investigation by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability.

“I have to be cognizant of my position. I don’t want anyone to be swayed by the opinions of elected officials while an investigation is being conducted. They do read the paper. They do see the news,” he said.

The chairman said only that the video clearly shows Adam Toledo had a gun in his hand. He refused to say when the teen dropped the gun.

“I can’t describe the sequence. Even if my own mind, it’s very difficult to describe what occurred. The public will be able to see and determine for themselves whether or not the police officer had reason to believe that his life was being threatened,” he said.

“The young man did have a gun and everything happened so quickly. It is not an extended video. Everything happened so quickly and the officer took immediate action to render aid to Mr. Toledo as well.”

Taliaferro said his heart goes out to both the Toledo family and to the officer who shot and killed the teenager and the officer’s family.

“The Toledo family lost a young, promising life — regardless of the fact that he was out on the street early in the morning. … I pray for them. I pray for the officer’s family as well. No one wants to come to work as a police officer and take a life,” Taliaferro said.

“Whenever you take someone’s life, it does sit with you mentally. … But I’m proud of his actions. He did what he’s trained to do. Not seeing Mr. Toledo as an offender. He saw him as a wounded person as well. And he rendered aid immediately. He tried to save his life. He immediately started CPR. He assessed Mr. Toledo’s injuries.”

A still frame from video recorded by a Chicago police officer’s body-worn camera shows Adam Toledo just before he was shot by the officer.
A still frame from video recorded by a Chicago police officer’s body-worn camera shows Adam Toledo just before he was shot by the officer.
Civilian Office of Police Accountability

Lightfoot vowed again Thursday to reform a foot chase policy that “put everyone at risk: the officers, the person being pursued and bystanders.”

Taliaferro urged the mayor to be careful how far she goes to rein in foot chases by Chicago Police “at a time when crime is very high.”

“If police can’t pursue on foot a fleeing offender, then are we sending a signal to our offenders that they won’t get caught because nobody’s gonna chase behind me? Nobody’s gonna pursue me on foot? That may be sending the wrong message to anybody that’s going to commit a crime or even thinking about committing a crime. It may possibly give them the inclination to go ahead and commit that crime because I know the police won’t chase,” he said.

“This could have easily happened during a domestic. It could have easily happened during any circumstance — and it has. I remember early on after I moved to the city, where there was gentleman shot and killed on Lake Shore Drive as a result of a cell phone. These things do happen.”

Taliaferro said police reform is needed. So are policy changes. But, he said, it must be done in a way that protects both Chicago residents and the police officers who serve and protect them.

“If we implement policies that will serve to hurt our residents by police not being able to apprehend an offender because of the lack of a foot chase, then we may be in trouble. Our crime rates may skyrocket,” he said.

Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th) was so shaken by the shooting video, he demanded that Housing Committee Chairman Harry Osterman (48th) recess a meeting called to consider Lightfoot’s proposed overhaul of the city’s affordable housing ordinance.

“It’s a very emotional time,” Sigcho-Lopez said.

Osterman replied: “It’s emotional for all of us. … What you asked for is appropriate.”

Afterward, Sigcho-Lopez was in tears as he talked about what he saw on the video released Thursday.

“A police officer shot and killed 13-year-old boy who stopped and put his hands up when the officer told him to. A boy whose body was fully open and vulnerable to a police officer’s weapon,” he said.

“What we saw is exactly what happens when police officers are taught that their lives matter more than anyone else’s. Our system protects the broken notion that Black and Brown children are disposable. Now is the time to tear down that racist, violent system and fix our city. The mayor doesn’t have any more chances. Our city can’t afford to lose another life.”