CHICAGO (AP) — Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Monday that she has directed the Chicago Police Department to capture and bring to justice whoever gave a 13-year-old boy the handgun he was carrying last week when he was fatally shot by a police officer.
Adam Toledo was shot in the chest after he ran from officers in the Little Village neighborhood shortly before 3 a.m. on March 29. He died at the scene and a gun was recovered.
“We will find the person who put the gun in Adam’s hand,” Lightfoot said during a news conference in the neighborhood on the West Side. “An adult put a gun in a child’s hand, a young impressionable child who should not be provided with lethal force.”
Police Superintendent David Brown and the department’s chief of detectives will “use every resource to track down the origins of this gun through tracing, fingerprinting and DNA and any other means,” Lightfoot said.
The Civilian Office of Police Accountability, which is investigating the shooting, has said it would release body camera footage of the shooting first to the boy’s family and then the public.
According to police, officers were dispatched to Little Village after the department’s ShotSpotter technology detected the sound of eight gun shots. When they arrived, Toledo and a 21-year-old man ran away. While chasing the teen, there was an “armed confrontation” during which the officer shot him once in the chest.
The 21-year-old man was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of resisting arrest.
The mayor and Brown, who also spoke at the news conference, declined to answer when asked whether the boy fired at the officer before he was shot in the chest.
But the mayor strongly suggested that the teen may have been involved in gangs before that night and that a gang member gave him the gun.
“Gangs are preying on our most vulnerable, corrupting these young minds with promises of familia and lucre,” she said.
“None of us should accept that we have adults here and across Chicago preying upon vulnerable teenage boys,” saying that it is everyone’s duty to give these children the love and support they need.
“That’s how we lessen the allure of gang life,” she said.
The mayor and superintendent also addressed a recent “officer safety alert” within the department warning officers that factions of a street gang had instructed members to shoot at unmarked Chicago Police vehicles in retaliation for the teen’s death.
“The danger to officers every day is real,” Lightfoot said, mentioning statistics that show 79 officers in the city were fired upon last year compared to 22 the year before.
She said she hoped gang members would not “be foolish enough” to fire upon police. Brown also urged calm, pointing to a statement made by the boy’s mother, Elizabeth Toledo over the weekend.
“Adam was a sweet and loving boy,” she said. “He would not want anyone else to be injured or die in his name.”
Brown also explained why Adam’s age and name were not released until a few days after his death, saying that the man who was with Adam the night he was killed told police a false name when asked to identify the teen. Brown said Adam’s fingerprints did not match any in any police databases.
Brown said Adam had run away at least twice in the days before his death. Adam’s mother reported him missing March 26, but told police the following day that he had returned. Investigators searching through recently closed missing persons reports reached out to Adam’s mother after the shooting and she told them she had not seen him in “several days” but had not reported him missing again.
She identified his body on Wednesday at the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office.
Lightfoot said the boy’s death would result in a new foot chase policy, though she did not elaborate, saying only that police foot chases are highly dangerous to officers, those being pursued and others in the area.
She vowed that a new policy would be in place before the beginning of the summer.
Attorneys for Adam’s family said Monday evening that they were requesting expedited meetings with police to get evidence in the case and had not yet received a confirmed time to view the police footage.
“We are not going to let the anguish and emotion of the moment interfere with our objective to obtain the facts,” a joint statement from attorneys Adeena Weiss Ortiz and Joel Hirschhorn said. “We will address all public statements about the circumstances of Adam’s death once we have the facts before us.”