Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot calls for calm before police shooting video’s release

Chicago: Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot urged the public Thursday (April 15) to remain peaceful and reserve judgment until an independent board can complete its investigation into the police shooting of a 13-year-old boy last month.

During a news conference before the promised release of investigation materials, including body camera footage of an officer fatally shooting Adam Toledo on March 29, Lightfoot called on people to keep calm.

Choking up at times, she decried the city’s long history of police violence and misconduct, especially in Black and brown communities, and said too many young people are left vulnerable to “systemic failures that we simply must fix.”

“We live in a city that is traumatized by a long history of police violence and misconduct,” the mayor said.

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

Asked whether the video showed whether the teen fired on the officer, Lightfoot said she had seen no evidence that he had. She described watching the jumpy footage as “excruciating.”

“As a mom, this is not something you want children to see,” said the mayor.

She declined to say if the footage showed whether the teen was holding a gun when he was shot, but she called a prosecutor’s assertion at a recent hearing that Toledo had a gun when he was shot “correct.”

The Civilian Office of Police Accountability, or COPA, was expected to release the bodycam footage of Toledo’s March 29 shooting at 2:30 p.m.

It was simultaneously expected to release other investigation materials, including video captured by a third party, arrest reports and audio recordings of shots being fired in the area that led police to respond.

The board didn’t say what the video shows or give any other information about the investigation.

The planned release comes in the wake of the traffic-stop shooting of Daunte Wright by an officer in a Minneapolis suburb that has sparked protests as the broader Minneapolis area nervously awaits the outcome of the trial of Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd.

 (Picture courtesy: Reuters)

In Chicago, police said officers responded to an area of the predominantly Latino and Black neighbourhood Little Village on the city’s West Side before dawn on the morning of the shooting after a police technology detected gunshots there.

The teen, who was Latino, and a 21-year-old man fled on foot when confronted by police, and an officer shot the teen once in the chest following a foot chase during what the department described as an armed confrontation.

Police said a handgun the boy had been carrying was recovered at the scene. The 21-year-old man was arrested on a misdemeanour charge of resisting arrest.

The review board initially said it couldn’t release the video because it involved the shooting of a minor, but it changed course after the mayor and police superintendent called for the video’s release.

“COPA”s core values of integrity and transparency are essential to building public trust, particularly in incidents related to an officer-involved shooting, and we are unwavering in our commitment to upholding these values,” the board said in its statement Wednesday (April 14).

Footage of the Adam Toledo shooting has been widely anticipated in the city, where the release of some previous police shooting videos sparked major protests, including the 2015 release of footage of a white officer shooting Black teenager Laquan McDonald 16 times, killing him.

Before the video’s release, some businesses in downtown Chicago”s “Magnificent Mile” shopping district boarded up their windows. Lightfoot said the city has been preparing for months for a verdict in the Chauvin trial and that it had activated a “neighbourhood protection plan.”

She said the plan could be applied to the release of the Toledo shooting video. “It happens now that these circumstances are sitting next to each other,” she said.

The Toledo family, meanwhile, issued a statement urging people to “remain peaceful.”

“We have heard reports in the media that more protests are planned today, and while we have no direct knowledge of such events, we pray that for the sake of our city, people remain peaceful to honour Adam”s memory and work constructively to promote reform,” the family said.

On Thursday (April 15), before the video’s release, Lightfoot and attorneys for the family and city said in a joint statement that they agreed Wednesday that in addition to the release of the video, all investigation materials should be made public, including a slowed-down compilation of what happened that morning.

“We acknowledge that the release of this video is the first step in the process toward the healing of the family, the community and our city,” the joint statement read.

“We understand that the release of this video will be incredibly painful and elicit an emotional response to all who view it, and we ask that people express themselves peacefully.”

The Chicago Police Department has a long history of brutality and racism that has fomented mistrust among the city’s many Black and Hispanic residents. Adding to that mistrust is the city’s history of suppressing damning police videos.

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