Chicago’s top cop has few answers about how an unarmed 13-year-old boy was shot and seriously wounded by a Chicago police officer
The boy was shot Wednesday night after he jumped from a stolen car and began running in the 800 block of North Cicero Avenue in Austin, according to police. He remains in serious but stable condition.
Chicago’s top cop provided few answers Thursday about how an unarmed 13-year-old boy was shot and seriously wounded by a Chicago police officer after allegedly running from a stolen car involved in a carjacking.
Police Superintendent David Brown, speaking nearly 24 hours after the shooting, sidestepped many of the questions posed during a news conference that at times grew contentious.
Brown confirmed earlier reports by the Chicago Sun-Times that the boy jumped from a stolen Honda Accord as police closed in on the car, then ran toward a gas station in the 800 block of North Cicero Avenue in Austin around 10:15 p.m.
An officer shot the boy once as the teen turned toward police who were pursuing him, Brown said, but the superintendent wouldn’t say how many rounds were fired or whether the boy had his hands up.
Brown did confirm that no shots were fired at police during the incident. He declined to say whether a gun was found, even though law enforcement sources and the Civilian Office of Police Accountability told the newspaper that no weapon was found on the boy.
Reacting to video showing police dragging the boy after he was shot, Brown said officers moved the boy over concerns gunfire may have struck gas pumps that could have “burst into flames.”
Brown declined to offer any clear defense of the officer, telling reporters, “I’m not going to testify for the officer. No, the officer needs to write his own statement.”
The superintendent did not say whether he had reviewed body cam video from the officers as well as surveillance video — all of which was made available to COPA earlier in the day.
The boy remains in serious but stable condition at Stroger, where he is being held in custody “for the stolen car,” Brown said. He did not elaborate and no charges have been announced.
The Accord was initially stolen Monday night after it was left running in the 100 block of West Randolph Street, Brown said. It was later used in a carjacking the following night in Oak Park, when someone in a black face mask stole a Honda CR-V left running with a 3-year-old inside near Lake Street and Oak Park Avenue, according to Brown.
The boy’s mother grabbed onto the SUV and was dragged to the ground, breaking her clavicle. The 3-year-old was found unharmed about 15 minutes later in the car, which had been abandoned in the 200 block of Madison Street, Oak Park police said.
The carjacker was seen getting into the other Honda, which Brown said set off automatic license plate readers in Chicago throughout Wednesday and came under surveillance of a police helicopter.
According to radio traffic, the helicopter pilot and a dispatcher repeatedly asked whether any officers on the ground were pursuing the car. There is some confusion as officers close in and a 10-1 is called, code for officer in distress.
A dispatcher at first says “shots fired at the police,” but then says “shots fired by the police” as officers chased a suspect from the car. But as Brown and others later confirmed, there was no gunfire at officers.
Brown said the wounded boy appeared to be involved in the Monday and Tuesday incidents as well, but offered no details.
The news conference by Brown followed by hours a statement by Mayor Lori Lightfoot that only said the mayor was in touch with Brown and COPA about “a shooting that resulted in a 13-year-old being shot by a Chicago police officer.”
As is routine, the officer who opened fire will be placed on administrative duties for 30 days as COPA investigates.
The agency said it has no plans to publicly release any of the video it has received about the case, despite the lingering questions, saying it is prohibited by state law. COPA had also cited state law when it initially refused to release video of a Chicago police officer fatally shooting 13-year-old Adam Toledo as he ran from police in Little Village more than a year ago.
But days later, the agency’s general counsel concluded that the law did not bar publication of body-worn and third-party video footage the agency has obtained to date. The video was released and footage showed Adam dropping a gun a second before the officer opened fire.
It was not clear why COPA will not release the latest video, though police records involving juveniles are generally kept from the public.
Another question raised by the shooting is the department’s policy on foot chases and whether the officers followed it. The department revised its foot pursuit policy amid backlash from the fatal police shootings of Adam and, days later, of 22-year-old Anthony Alvarez.
The revised policy, unveiled earlier this year, emphasizes the inherent danger of foot chases and prohibits officers from starting them for minor offenses such as traffic stops. The policy also expands police supervisors’ role in ensuring proper guidance and communication when a pursuit begins.
Brown said COPA’s investigation will determine whether Wednesday’s chase was within that policy.
Brown said he wouldn’t compare Wednesday’s shooting to the killing of Adam. “It’s really important to take this as a separate standalone case and not begin making generalizations that can be conflated with this case,” he said.
The 13-year-old was wounded in an area of Chicago and Cicero avenues ringed by businesses with security cameras.
Veah Larde, owner of Two Sisters, a catering and pastry shop at the corner, had conflicting reactions to the shooting.
“I was shocked. But not. Because I feel like we’ve become a society where we don’t investigate before we act,” she said. “It’s like, ‘I’m in the moment!’ And I can’t say I’m in that police officer’s shoes, and I have multiple cops in my family and we have these conversations all the time, but sometimes I feel like a moment more of a pause, just to assess the situation, may have led to a better outcome.
“But again, I’m not in the heat of it, so I don’t know what the adrenaline level is, what you’re thinking, what you saw. Because we all know, the hand is quicker than the eye,” she added.
Larde said she grew up in the neighborhood and its vibe can change depending on the day.
“There are some days when there’s nothing going on and you’re like, ‘This is a normal neighborhood.’ And there are those days when the weather changes, somebody woke up with a bad attitude. Or just, it just is. And you just have to be careful about what you’re doing and how you’re doing it,” she said.
Larde said she wished there was more of a police presence in the area, especially since kids have begun hanging out at the corner, sometimes causing trouble, as the weather warms.
A longtime resident who lives within a block of the shooting said she was watching “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” when the sound of her television was drowned out by a police helicopter that “sounded like it was in my house.”
She’d heard details of the shooting through neighborhood chatter, but hadn’t heard the age of the boy who was shot until talking with the Sun-Times.
“He’s 13? Oh no, oh no. Thirteen years old,” said the woman, who asked not to be named. “They didn’t have to shoot him if he was running and didn’t have a weapon. But maybe they didn’t know, I don’t know. When my kids was coming up, they couldn’t be out at 13.”
The woman said her block is quiet, but the block around the corner has had regular bouts of gun violence. “They’ve been shooting around there forever,” she said. “It cools down and starts back up.”