Evolution of a city's account of a killing: How Chicago's narrative changed in the fatal police shooting of Adam Toledo

Grace Hauck, USA TODAY
·5 min read

CHICAGO – In the wake of the release of body-camera videos of the fatal police shooting of 13-year-old Adam Toledo — which appear to show Adam's hands in the air when he was shot – many Chicagoans are calling attention to the city's changing narrative about what happened that early morning late last month.

Hours after the incident, Chicago police labeled the incident an "armed confrontation." On Thursday, Chicago Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa retweeted a statement on Twitter condemning the "police language calling Adam's murder an 'armed confrontation.'"

Following the release of the videos, City Council's Latino Caucus said in a statement "the body camera footage shows that Adam Toledo was an unarmed child whith his hands up when he was shot by a Chicago police officer."

What we know: Outcry grows as police officer in Adam Toledo shooting is identified as Eric Stillman

Here's what city officials said, and when.

March 29: Police call incident an 'armed confrontation'

A little after 5 a.m. CT that morning, less than three hours after the shooting, police spokesman Tom Ahern called the incident an "armed confrontation" in a tweet. He also shared a photo of the gun recovered from the scene.

"Officers observed two subjects in a nearby alley, one subject fled on foot which resulted in an armed confrontation. One subject shot and killed. 2nd subject in custody. Gun recovered on scene," he wrote.

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Nearly 12 hours later, a little after 4 p.m. CT, the department released an offical press release removing the word "armed" from "armed confrontation," and referring to the two people involved as "two males."

"One armed offender fled from the officers. A foot pursuit ensued which resulted in a confrontation," the statement said.

April 5: Mayor says Adam 'was in possession of a gun'

On April 5, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Police Superintendent David Brown held a news conference at New Life Church on the city's West Side.

"A foot pursuit ensued, which resulted in a confrontation in the alley," Brown said. Asked by a reporter if Adam fired at officers, Brown said he would "not go into further detail." Brown said he was awakened that early morning, with officers "alerting me that the subject seemed very young."

Lightfoot, who said she had not viewed the body-cam videos, called the incident "a complicated story" and said Adam "was in possession of a gun." Lightfoot said the city had to provide more "love" and "opportunities" to its children to "lessen the allure of a gang life."

"We will find the person who put the gun in Adam’s hand," Lightfoot said. "An adult put a gun in a child’s hand — a young, impressionable child, and one who should not have been provided with lethal force — a weapon that could and did irreparably change the course of his life."

She added: "Gangs are preying upon our most vulnerable, corrupting these young minds."

Hours after the news conference, the family of Adam Toledo said they still hadn't see the police body-cam video of the incident and were "concerned by presumptions, implications, and statements made today that are not supported by the facts made public so far."

"We are unable to refute or respond to these statements until we obtain the evidentiary facts, which so far are known only to the police," the statement said. "We do, however, want to correct the hurtful and false mischaracterization of Adam as a lonely child of the street who had no one to turn to. This is simply not true."

April 10: Prosecutor says Adam was holding gun when he was shot

Saturday, prosecutors described what the officer's body camera footage showed, alleging Adam was holding a gun when the officer shot him.

The details were revealed during a bond hearing for Ruben Roman, 21, who was with Adam when he died. Prosecutors said shots fired by Roman while standing next to Adam set off a chain of events that led to the fatal shooting.

April 15: Mayor says Adam was 'a child who was in contact with an adult who had a gun'

A little after noon on Thursday, Lightfoot changed her phrasing at a news conference calling for calm, saying Adam was "a child who was in contact with an adult who had a gun." Asked whether Adam shot at an officer, she said: "I've seen no evidence whatsoever that Adam Toledo shot at the police."

Meanwhile, Sarah Sinovic, chief spokeswoman for the Cook County State’s Attorney, said the attorney who made the comment that Adam was holding a gun when the officer shot him "failed to fully inform himself before speaking in court.

After 2:30 p.m., a police watchdog agency released 17 bodycam videos, four third-party videos, a transmission from the Office of Emergency Management and Communications, two audio recordings of 911 calls, six ShotSpotter recordings, as well as response and arrest reports.

According to the videos, Adam was running away from the officer down an alley when he slowed down by a fence, threw what looked like a gun behind the fence, and turned toward the officer with his hands up. The officer fired his weapon less than a second after Adam turned around to face him with his hands raised.

The city declined to comment to USA TODAY as the story relates to an active investigation.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Adam Toledo police shooting: How Chicago's narrative changed