Report: ‘Breakdown of Communication’ Led to Mischaracterization of Toledo Shooting in Court

An internal investigation completed by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office found a “breakdown of communication” and other issues were responsible for the inadvertent mischaracterization of the Adam Toledo shooting in a hearing last month.

The office of State’s Attorney Kim Foxx said a prosecutor in bond court did not intend to give the impression that 13-year-old Toledo was holding a gun when he was shot by police on March 29. The comments were made by the prosecutor while reading a bond proffer in the case of Ruben Roman, the 21-year-old man who had been with Toledo just before the shooting.

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“The investigation revealed a breakdown of communication in how information was shared,” Foxx’s office said, “which ultimately did not get elevated to State’s Attorney Foxx before, nor in a timely manner following the bond court hearing.”

Ruben was arrested for allegedly firing multiple shots in the 2300 block of South Sawyer Avenue on March 29. Chicago police responded to that scene and Officer Eric Stillman shot and killed Toledo following a foot chase through a nearby alley.

Roman was charged with reckless discharge of a firearm, unlawful use of a weapon and child endangerment. He appeared in bond court on April 10 — nearly two weeks after his arrest, but six days before body camera footage of the Toledo shooting was released to the public.

During that hearing, Assistant State’s Attorney James Murphy stated that Toledo had been holding a gun in his hand when he was fatally shot by Stillman. But body camera footage showed that while the boy had been carrying a firearm, he dropped it and put his empty hands up just before he was shot.

According to the state’s attorney’s investigation, Murphy “did not intend” to make it appear Toledo was holding a gun when shot, but the language he used was “inartful” and left “an unintended impression.”

Rather than describing the events that led to the shooting, Murphy’s comments were meant to “provide facts related to the three charges brought against” Roman, specifically the child endangerment charge.

“Proper steps were not taken to ensure appropriate language was used in the bond proffer (a statement of facts delivered in court to support the charging decision made),” Foxx’s office said. “Establishing child endangerment requires a limited discussion of the officer-involved shooting, but the attorney in bond court was not given sufficient guidance as to what information should and should not have been included in the proffer.”

The investigation found Murphy’s work had not been reviewed prior to the hearing.

In order to protect against “internal and external influence,” Foxx’s office has a separate unit — known as the Law Enforcement Accountability Division (LEAD) — investigate police shooting cases.

That division reports not to Foxx, but directly to her First Assistant Jennifer Coleman. It collects evidence and documents from various sources, including the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, but in order to “protect the integrity” of its review process, those documents are not shared outside of LEAD.

Following its review process, LEAD instead shares a memo outlining its work and its recommendations with Foxx, who reviews it and makes a decision on the filing of charges.

But the charges against Roman were investigated not by LEAD, but by the State’s Attorney’s Felony Review Unit. (LEAD was investigating the March 29 Toledo shooting.) Even though these two divisions were investigating separate cases stemming from the same event — Roman’s charges and the police shooting — the Felony Review Unit was not given access to the materials maintained by LEAD.

Foxx and her office received swift blowback once the body camera footage was released.

Murphy was placed on administrative leave and Foxx’s office issued a statement saying he had not “fully informed himself” of the facts of the case before speaking at the bond hearing. Following the investigation, Murphy has been returned to his assignment, but on Wednesday it was reported that Coleman had decided to resign her position.

As a result of the investigation, the State’s Attorney’s Office said prosecutors will undergo additional training on how to present facts in court to support the charges at issue.

“The tragedy of the death of (a) 13-year old boy has been clouded by the confusion and frustration my office has caused and for this I apologize,” Foxx said in a statement. “It’s not lost on me that our community is grieving and I want to assure Adam’s family and the public that my office is working diligently to investigate his death.”

Contact Matt Masterson: @ByMattMasterson | (773) 509-5431 | [email protected] 

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