For the past two weeks, Chicago residents have been reacting to 13-year-old Adam Toledo’s death at the hands of a Chicago police officer March 29.
On Thursday, the Civilian Office of Police Accountability published video of the shooting from police body cameras and surveillance cameras. During the video, it appears that a firearm can briefly be seen in Toledo’s hand before he drops it at Officer Eric Stillman’s orders and turns to face the officer with both hands raised. At the moment he is shot, he does not appear to be holding a weapon.
Kristian Armendariz, a member of the Little Village Community Council, began organizing protests before the video was released, but he says the video only fortified his belief that Toledo should not have been shot.
“That was my understanding of the whole situation when I first started the campaign and the movement campaign, if you want to call it. I truly did believe that Adam did not have a gun at that moment that the officer shot him… I honestly felt from the beginning that Adam did not have the intention of pointing or having an armed confrontation with the police.”
Ana Solano, an organizer for the nonprofit Únete La Villita, says that in her conversations with community members, the reaction has been mixed.
“I have seen that there’s a division in the community. There’s a lot of victim blaming, and I think that’s unfortunate because you know, it shifts the focus away from the police. They’re the ones that shot Adam Toledo, they’re the ones that shot the little boy. And I don’t think that that sort of shift should happen. They should take accountability because the police cannot act as the judge, jury and executioner.”
The fact that Toledo was out on the streets in the middle of the night without his parents’ knowledge rings familiar to Armendariz, who was born and raised in Little Village.
“I definitely know what shoes Adam was in. At 13, I was outside at 3 a.m., I did run away from home. I really feel like Adam was just a teenager. We all have little reckless moments in life and I feel like he was just being influenced by the wrong people. It could have been anybody.”
While similar police-involved shootings have mostly occurred in and focused on the Black community, Solano says that Toledo’s death brings home the issue of policing in the Latino community as well.
“I hope that his death brings awareness to our community, because there’s a lot of anti-Blackness in La Villita, unfortunately. So I hope that people get to realize that police violence is not only a Black issue. It’s also a POC issue. So I hope that, you know, we can work on our anti-Blackness and unite forces.”
Solano has suggestions for ways to help her community heal from these tragic events.
“I think that we should listen to our youth and really donate to [organizations] that have been doing work on the ground, like Chicago Freedom School, Good Kids Mad City, Únete ... and then also be empathetic towards the mom -- don’t share that graphic video.”