On the night of March 28, Elizabeth Toledo thought her 13-year-old son, Adam, was finally home. He had returned after days away. She had even called the Chicago police to report him missing. But that Sunday night, she would later tell reporters, she saw him go into the room he shared with his brother.
The next day, he was gone. Ms. Toledo later heard from the police: Adam was dead, fatally shot by a police officer who had chased him into an alley early in the morning on March 29, just hours after she last saw him.
“I just want to know what really happened to my baby,” Ms. Toledo said at a news conference last week, demanding transparency from law enforcement officials and expressing disbelief that Adam — who, she said, played with Legos and rode bikes with his siblings — would end up in what the police called an “armed confrontation.”
The Civilian Office of Police Accountability, an independent agency that handles investigations involving the Chicago Police Department, initially withheld the footage from body cameras worn by the officers involved in the shooting, but now says it plans to release the video. The announcement comes as the nation continues to contend with tensions over police violence, particularly when it comes to Black and Latino residents.
The agency reconsidered after Adam’s family, city and police officials, and activists pressed for the public to see the video. Officials said they were coordinating with the Toledo family so that Adam’s mother could watch the footage before it was shared with the public.
The shooting has tapped into a tide of anguish and frustration in Chicago neighborhoods that have been gripped by recurring gun violence. Chicago, like other American cities, has struggled to stem a surge in shootings during the coronavirus pandemic. In the first quarter of 2021, there were 131 shootings, marking the most violent start to a year since 2017.
Chicago is also a city that has seen the power that video can have in shaping the public’s understanding of a police shooting and galvanizing a community’s outrage. In 2014, a recording from a police vehicle’s dash camera captured Laquan McDonald, a Black teenager, collapsing as a white officer shot him 16 times.