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Chicago sees massive protests after police shooting of 13-year-old Adam Toledo

Editor's Note: This report states that footage captured from Chicago Police Officer Eric Stillman's encounter with Adam Toledo took place the night of March 29th. The incident occurred in the early morning hours of March 29th. NewsHour regrets the error.

Questions over the fatal shooting and the role of the police in the death of a teen are front and center in Chicago. There, the mayor, city officials and community leaders are taking stock of how police respond with force, and whether more changes are needed. Stephanie Sy speaks to Hans Menos, the Vice President of Law Enforcement Initiatives for the Center for Policing Equity, for this report.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Questions over a different fatal shooting and the role of the police are front and center in Chicago. There, the mayor, city officials, and community leaders are taking stock of how police respond with force, and whether more changes are needed.

    Stephanie Sy begins with this report.

  • And a warning:

    This story contains graphic images.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    Chicago sits on edge, as protests have broken out over the police killing of 13-year-old Adam Toledo.

  • Chantell Brooks:

    We're constantly burying our kids, and there's no justice is being served. What do they want us to do?

  • Stephanie Sy:

    Business owners along the city's magnificent mile began boarding up windows, as city officials called for calm. Toledo lived with his family on Chicago's West Side. The last moments of his life are now under investigation.

    On Thursday, this graphic video from Chicago police officer Eric Stillman's body camera was released from the night of March 29. The nine minutes of footage shows Officer Stillman chasing Toledo down an alley. He was with a 21-year-old man who police say fired a gun. Toledo can be seen fleeing as Officer Stillman yells for the teenager to stop and show his hands.

    Toledo then turns around. From another video, he appears to make a throwing motion in a direction where officers say this gun was later recovered. But then he raises his hands. The officer fires one shot, killing the seventh grader.

  • Rabbi Michael Ben Yosef:

    He put his hands up, and he was still murdered. So, I have a question. What more could have he done?

  • Stephanie Sy:

    Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot called the video excruciating to watch, but called on protesters to remain peaceful as the incident is investigated.

  • Mayor Lori Lightfoot:

    While we don't have enough information to be the judge and jury of this particular situation, it's certainly understandable why so many of our residents are feeling that all-too-familiar surge of outrage and pain. And it's even clearer that trust between our community and law enforcement is far from healed and remains badly broken.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    Previous police shooting videos that have gone public sparked major protests in Chicago, including one in 2015 that showed a white officer shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times.

    Today, another mother grieves. Elizabeth Toledo described Adam as a curious and goofy teenager who loved animals, riding his bike, and junk food. The Toledo family issued a statement urging people to avoid violent protests, protests that have erupted time and again, as the nation continues to grapple with how to check police use of lethal force.

    Let's look further at some of the questions raised by this case and similar questions other cities around the country are facing.

    Hans Menos is the vice president of law enforcement initiatives for the Center for Policing Equity. He served previously as the executive director of the Police Advisory Commission for the city of Philadelphia.

    Mr. Menos, thank you so much for joining us on the "NewsHour."

    I think most everyone would agree it is simply unacceptable for a 13-year-old to be shot and killed by a police officer. But when you look at that video, is there nuance that needs to be discussed and explored?

  • Hans Menos:

    So, first, thank you for having me. And my heart goes out to the Toledo family. I honestly can't imagine, as a father and as a parent, having to watch that video of your child on a regular basis.

    So, yes, of course, there is nuance. There is nuance in everything. I think what we have to start with is that Adam Toledo was a 13-year-old boy. And we failed him. His death is on — is not wholly his responsibility. It is on us, as the adults, to prevent these issues from occurring.

    So we're going to find out. There will be an investigation. There is an ongoing investigation. But some of the things we have to keep in mind are that the evidence that has been presented so far has been presented by the police department, has been done in a light that needs to be brought objectively.

    And so we know that's happening. The Chicago Civilian Office of Police Accountability is investigating. And we should all wait to see what pans out there.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    So, we are hearing sort of the police side of things, as you described it.

    But we also have seen video from at least two angles. And we know that the officer was running after Adam Toledo and another adult who has been charged.

    Let me ask you how that pursuit, on foot, could have led to this situation, and could it have been avoided?

  • Hans Menos:

    So, this is a great question, an ongoing question, I think, around the country, as well as in the actuality city of Chicago. Is the foot pursuit sufficient?

    The answer is, we don't really know because there is no foot pursuit policy. So, what can officers do to prevent the discharge of their firearm? What practices can they employ? How can they keep themselves safe and keep other people safe by drafting, writing, vetting a foot pursuit policy that guides their practice?

    Without that, what we have is the officers doing what they think is right in the heat of a moment. And that can have disastrous consequences.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    We know that the Chicago Police Department has a troubled history of firing their weapons, and disproportionately so on Black and brown men.

    Do you think this fatal shooting of Adam Toledo fit a pattern we have seen before with other victims?

  • Hans Menos:

    Well, yes.

    I think that police shootings overall, when we see the history of this country, not just Chicago, they affect Black and brown young men. And I highlight that other, much more egregious, much older white men have managed to live through their offenses, Dylann Roof, Kyle Rittenhouse, Robert Lang (ph), three of the more recent egregious shooters, killing many people, 17, eight — or 17 or 18 people, have lived, have lived through this experience and were brought to justice.

    We're never going to know what Adam Toledo might say in his defense, because he was killed on the streets. And so that's significant. As the community draws this comparison, it is not lost on community that Black and brown young kids are dying at the hands of police, while white kids are being brought to trial and being brought through the normal path of justice.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    Hans Menos with the center for policing equity.

    Thank you so much for joining us with your perspective.

  • Hans Menos:

    Thank you for having me.

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