Family of 13-year-old killed by Chicago police wants to correct ‘false mischaracterization’

(CHICAGO) — The attorney for the family of a 13-year-old boy who was shot dead by Chicago police last week said they “want to correct the hurtful and false mischaracterization of Adam as a lonely child of the street who had no one to turn to.”

“This is simply not true,” the attorney said in a statement Monday. “Adam was a loved and supported 13-year-old boy. He lived with his mother, his 90-year-old grandfather, and two of his siblings. His father was in his life. They all loved him very much. The Toledo family is a close-knit family. They look after each other. Adam attended Gary Elementary School where he had the support of his teachers and his classmates. Adam was not alone.”

The lawyer’s statement came on the heels of a press conference with Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

Brown said the deadly shooting unfolded just after 2:30 a.m. local time on March 29, when police responded to a ShotSpotter alert of eight gunshots. The gunshot detection system directed officers to an alley in Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood where they spotted two males, one of whom was armed with a handgun, according to Brown.

Both individuals fled and the officers chased after them on foot, leading to a “confrontation” in the alley, Brown said. An officer fired their weapon, striking one of the males in the chest. The individual was pronounced dead at the scene and a gun was recovered. The 21-year-old man who was with him was taken into custody for resisting arrest, according to Brown.

Brown said it took days for police to identify the deceased individual as 13-year-old Adam Toledo because the boy wasn’t carrying any identification and the man who was with him gave officers a false name.

After the boy’s fingerprints returned no matching records in any database, detectives began combing through missing person reports. They came across one from Toledo’s mother who had reported him missing on March 26 before telling police that her son had returned home the following day, according to Brown. Detectives called Toledo’s mother on March 31 to inform her that the description of her son resembled an unidentified individual in the morgue. The mother told detectives that she had not seen her son since he had left home again either late on March 27 or early on March 28, but she had not reported him missing. The mother agreed to meet detectives at the morgue on March 31 and she ultimately identified her son, according to Brown.

“One of my greatest fears as superintendent of the Chicago Police Department has been a deadly encounter between one of our officers and a juvenile, despite given the recent rise in violent crimes involving juveniles,” Brown said at Monday’s press conference. “That fear became a reality on March 29, 2021, with the death of 13-year-old Adam Toledo.”

The shooting is being investigated by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA), the civilian oversight agency of the Chicago Police Department. Brown told reporters that “COPA has our full cooperation.”

“Our officers must make split-second decisions when it comes to the use of deadly force, and that is a heavy burden,” he added. “This is a tragedy, the most tragic of circumstances. Let’s not make it worse by rushing to judgement.”

During Monday’s press conference, the Chicago mayor said Toledo’s family needs “our love and support in this moment, not our withering judgement.”

“As a person of faith, i know that there is only one who can judge and it is none of us,” Lightfoot told reporters. “This is a complicated story and it’s not my story to tell, particularly not as our understanding of the facts is evolving.”

The mayor said she has directed the Chicago Police Department to implement before summer a new policy regarding foot pursuits, which pose “a significant safety issue” for all those involved. She also vowed to find the person who put the gun in Toledo’s hand, saying that “gangs are preying upon our most vulnerable, corrupting these young minds with promises of familia and lucre.”

“We have an opportunity and really an obligation to get to the bottom of how it was that a 13-year-old boy came to be in possession of a gun,” Lightfoot said. “We have a responsibility to do everything we can to allow these children to grow up surrounded by love and support and opportunity. that’s how we lessen the allure of the gang life and how we reduce the opportunity for young people to be led astray.”

The attorney for Toledo’s family said they appreciate the condolences from the mayor and the police superintendent but that they are “concerned by presumptions, implications, and statements made today that are not supported by the facts made public so far regarding what transpired on March 29, 2021.”

“We are unable to refute or respond to these statements until we obtain the evidentiary facts, which so far are known only to the police,” the lawyer said in the statement following Monday’s press conference. “We are working diligently to learn the truth about what happened in the early morning hours of March 29 when Adam’s life was so tragically cut short by a police bullet. We have requested expedited meetings with pertinent authorities to obtain evidence and to review the police body camera footage and other available video.”

“To date, we have not received confirmation of a time to view the footage,” the attorney added. “We are not going to let the anguish and emotion of the moment interfere with our objective to obtain the facts. We will address all public statements about the circumstances of Adam’s death once we have the facts before us.”

The boy’s mother, Elizabeth Toledo, told Chicago ABC station WLS-TV that her son had hopes of one day becoming a police officer.

“He was so full of life,” she said. “They just took it away from him.”

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