CHICAGO (CBS) — Under growing pressure to release video of the fatal police shooting of 13-year-old Adam Toledo, the Civilian Office of Police Accountability on Friday reversed course after earlier claiming state law prohibited it from making the footage public without a court order.
“COPA has determined that certain provisions of state law intended to protect the confidentiality of juvenile records do not prohibit the agency’s release of material related to its investigation of a Chicago Police Officer’s fatal shooting of 13-year old Adam Toledo,” COPA spokesman Ephraim Eddy said in a statement Friday afternoon.READ MORE: Chicago Weather: Cool Weather Continues; Frost Advisory South Of Chicago
After the agency on Thursday said state law prohibited COPA from releasing the video without a court order, Eddy said COPA’s attorney determined “the Juvenile Court Act does not bar publication of the body worn and third-party video camera footage the agency has obtained to date. COPA will therefore follow established City policy, which requires public posting of material at the earliest point possible but no later than 60 days after the incident.”
Eddy did not specify how soon COPA would release the video, but said the agency is working with Adam’s family and their attorney to arrange for them to see the footage.
“Again our condolences are with the Toledo family during this challenging time,” Eddy said.
Earlier Friday afternoon, Adeena Weiss Ortiz, the family’s attorney, said Adam’s mother was not ready to speak to the media about the shooting. But only to say that he was a happy child who loved animals and playing with Legos.
She said the family will get to see any available bodycam video of the incident next week.
Adam, who went to Gary Elementary School, had no criminal background and was not involved in any gang activity, according to Weiss Ortiz. The child died at 2:30 in the morning. His mother was informed about Adam’s death days afterwards. He had four siblings.
“At this time, the family doesn’t have all the information, and they are encouraging the full cooperation of COPA (Civilian Office of Police Accountability), and the Chicago Police Department, and transparency in obtaining the video as soon as possible,” Weiss Ortiz said.
“I just want to know what really happened to my baby,” said Adam’s mother Elizabeth Toledo, who sobbed as she addressed the media. “They had a lot of options. But not kill him. They could have shot him in the leg, his arm, up in the air. I don’t know, but not kill my baby.”
Weiss Ortiz also had a message to the community regarding negative messages Adam’s mother has received since his death.
“(She said) the community that the community is judging her. She wants to let you know that she was a full time mom and a homemaker, to five children, ages 11 to 24. But on Sunday night, she put her son to bed in the room that he shared with his brother,” Weiss Ortiz said. “She is also asking for privacy, to mourn and grieve the loss of her son.”
According to Weiss Ortiz, Adam’s mother filed a missing persons report on Saturday but Adam returned on Sunday.
“The little boy was at home in his bed Sunday night. On Monday morning he was shot. And only two days later she was made aware of his death,” Weiss Ortiz said.
Early Monday morning, Chicago Police arrived for a ShotSpotter alert of multiple shots fired in the 2300 block of South Sawyer Avenue in the Little Village area. Grainy surveillance video shows officers pulling up and getting out, but what played out next in the alley is only captured on police body camera.READ MORE: Churches, Community Groups Hold Mother's Day Ceremony For Justice For Black And Brown People Killed By Police
Police said Adam and a 21-year-old man were in the alley. According to COPA, both ran.
Police captured the man, but Adam was shot in the chest by police during an “armed encounter,” according to CPD. The Cook County Medical Examiner’s office said it was a single bullet to the chest.
“Why did they do this, if he was only a minor?” asked Adam’s grandfather Francisco Garcia. “Why did they kill him like that? I want justice for him.”
While it’s unclear yet when body camera footage of the shooting will be made public, as CBS 2’s Jermont Terry reported, Adam’s family will get the chance to watch the video whether it is released or not.
Police never mentioned the person they shot was 13 years old. Instead, that information was released three days later by the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office.
Then, and only then, did tweets from police Supt. David Brown speak about the young victim. In a statement, Brown said:
“My greatest fear as the Superintendent of the Chicago Police Department has been a deadly encounter between one of our own and a juvenile especially given the recent rise in violent crimes involving juveniles throughout our city. Unfortunately, this fear became a reality earlier this week. Any loss of life is tragic, especially when it involves youth. On behalf of the entire Chicago Police Department, I extend my condolences to the family of the juvenile, who was fatally shot by a Chicago Police officer in the early morning hours of Monday, March 29, 2021.”
Brown and Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Thursday called for COPA to release any video of the shooting.
“We fully support the investigation being conducted by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA), and adamantly call for the release of any and all video, including body-worn camera footage, related to the incident, as permitted by laws pertaining to juveniles,” Brown said.
“Because his family and the public will undoubtedly have many questions, we must release any relevant videos as soon as possible. Recognizing that these are the most complex cases that COPA investigates, transparency and speed are crucial,” Lightfoot said in a series of tweets.
The facts and the circumstances around this case are under investigation, but we must ask ourselves how our social safety net failed this boy leading up to the tragic events in the early hours of Monday morning.
— Mayor Lori Lightfoot (@chicagosmayor) April 1, 2021
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Because his family and the public will undoubtedly have many questions, we must release any relevant videos as soon as possible. Recognizing that these are the most complex cases that COPA investigates, transparency and speed are crucial.
— Mayor Lori Lightfoot (@chicagosmayor) April 1, 2021
Neither COPA nor the CPD have stated if Toledo had the gun that was found at the scene, if he pointed it at officers, or if he fired a shot. Yet police insist the officer feared for his safety.