CHICAGO — A man who fired off gunshots as he stood next to 13-year-old Adam Toledo on a Little Village street corner sparked the chain of events that led to Toledo’s fatal shooting by Chicago police, Cook County prosecutors said in court Saturday.
Ruben Roman, 21, was charged with felonies including child endangerment, aggravated unlawful use of a weapon and reckless discharge. Judge Susana Ortiz ordered him held on $150,000 bond; he will need to post $15,000 to be released on an ankle bracelet pending trial.
Roman is on video firing the weapon that brought officers to Little Village on the night of the shooting last month. He and Toledo fled the scene together, with officers in pursuit, according to prosecutors.
Roman was arrested as another officer chased Toledo, who was holding a gun when the officer shot him, prosecutors said. That gun matched the spent cartridge casings that were found in the area where Roman was firing, prosecutors said.
That sequence of events would strongly indicate that Roman at some point passed the gun to Toledo, though prosecutors stopped short of saying so explicitly.
“If the defendant does not bring the 13-year-old with him, if he doesn’t bring his gun with him while on gun offender probation, if he doesn’t shoot that gun seven to eight times on a city street with (Toledo) standing in arm’s length of him while he’s firing those shots … none of it would have happened,” Assistant State’s Attorney James Murphy said in court.
Roman’s attorney Assistant Public Defender Courtney Smallwood vigorously rejected the implication that Roman is responsible for Toledo’s death, noting that the gun was allegedly recovered from Toledo.
“The victim is dead at the hand of the Chicago police officers, not my client,” she said, calling Toledo’s death “tragic.”
The police shooting itself remains under investigation by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability.
In court Saturday, Murphy gave the most detailed public description to date about what happened the night police killed Toledo, whose death at such a young age sparked outrage around the city.
No body-worn camera footage has been publicly released, and police have given scant details, saying only that Toledo was shot during an “armed confrontation” with an officer.
But prosecutors on Saturday gave a moment-by-moment account of that night and said their description was backed up by copious surveillance and body-worn camera footage.
About 2:30 a.m. March 29, Roman and Toledo were walking together on South Sawyer Avenue toward 24th Street, Murphy said. They can be distinguished in the camera footage by their clothing: a gold jacket on Roman and a white hat on Toledo, Murphy said.
As they walked toward the corner, a vehicle drove by, and Roman walked up and got into a “shooting stance,” Murphy said.
Toledo, at first, backed away. But as Roman began firing, the boy walked up closer until he was just an arm’s length away from the shooter, Murphy said.
Roman got off seven or eight shots, and the two quickly fled, Roman taking the lead and Toledo right behind, Murphy said.
A city ShotSpotter detected the gunfire, and two uniformed Chicago police officers in a marked squad car responded to the scene in less than a minute, Murphy said.
Roman and Toledo cut through an alley together, and police gave chase on foot, Murphy said. Both of the officers’ body-worn cameras were recording.
The officers who chased Roman and Toledo after the shots were fired both had their body-worn cameras recording, Murphy said.
One officer tackled Roman as Toledo kept running. As Roman was being arrested, he dropped a pair of red gloves, Murphy said. Those gloves tested positive for gunshot residue, according to Murphy.
Toledo kept running as an officer ordered him to stop, then paused near a break in a wooden fence, Murphy said. The officer ordered Toledo to show his hands. Toledo was standing with his left side to the officer and held his right hand to his right side, Murphy said.
The officer told Toledo “drop it, drop it,” as Toledo turned toward the officer with a gun in his right hand, Murphy said.
The officer fired one shot, hitting Toledo in the chest. The gun Toledo was holding landed a few feet away, Murphy said. The officer radioed for an ambulance and began chest compressions on Toledo, who was ultimately pronounced dead at the scene, Murphy said.
The 9 mm Ruger that was recovered next to Toledo matches the fired shell casings that were found on the corner where Roman was shooting, prosecutors said.Toledo’s right hand also tested positive for gunshot residue, Murphy said.
Roman was taken into custody and, when asked who he was with, initially gave a fake name for Toledo. Later, he denied knowing who he was with. He also denied shooting, saying he was just in the alley waiting for a train.
“He never explained what train would have stopped in that alley,” Murphy said.
Roman was released from custody on a misdemeanor charge of resisting a police officer. He is due back in court next month on that charge.
Meanwhile, he failed to appear at a court hearing on an unrelated case Wednesday, leading a judge to issue a warrant for his arrest, records show. He is on probation for a gun charge in that case.
Roman was arrested on the warrant Friday at his mother’s house, where he was hiding in the closet and had shaved his head in an apparent effort to disguise himself, Murphy said.
Smallwood, Roman’s attorney, said much of the state’s evidence connecting her client to Toledo’s death was “speculative at best.”
There was no indication that Roman ever wore the red gloves that tested positive for gunshot residue, or that the gun allegedly recovered from Toledo was in fact Roman’s weapon, she said.
In setting bond, Ortiz noted that the spent cartridge casings from the scene matched the gun allegedly found in Toledo’s hands “that resulted in, as both sides put it, this very tragic situation.”
In a statement Saturday evening, attorneys for Toledo’s family declined to comment on prosecutors’ allegations “until we see all of the videos and examine the evidence for ourselves.”
The attorneys said they had an appointment to view the footage in the coming week.
Also on Saturday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she has spoken to Toledo’s mother “recently” but did not give details. During an unrelated news conference, she reiterated the family’s calls for peace in the wake of the shooting, which has spurred multiple protests across the city.
Lightfoot said Elizabeth Toledo, the boy’s mother, will view the shooting video “early next week” with her lawyer.
“We’re going to hopefully follow their lead in this, but I do believe there is obviously a significant amount of interest in the video,” said Lightfoot, who has said she has not seen the video. “I think it will only help disabuse a lot of urban myth that has sprung up in the void. But I want to be clear: From what’s been described to me, it is going to be a very tough video for people to watch.”
Lightfoot acknowledged that police were preparing for unrest, but said that was largely in response to the upcoming verdict in the Minnesota trial of Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer who is accused of murdering George Floyd, a Black man.
The officers involved in Toledo’s shooting have been removed from regular duty pending a review of their conduct.
(Chicago Tribune’s Alice Yin contributed to this story.)