Adam Toledo: He Could Have Been Your Son (Or Mine)––He Should Be Alive Today

by Nikkya Hargrove
ABC 7 Chicago/Youtube

One second. What can happen in just one second?

The killing of Adam Toledo.

Adam Toledo, a 13-year-old seventh grader from Chicago, was killed by the police in just one second on March 29th.

His death has made headlines: Chicago Police Release Video of Officer Shooting Boy. What to Know About the Police Shooting of Adam Toledo. Adam Toledo Remembered. So many of these headlines, so many similar stories, and it almost starts to feel like a normal everyday occurrence. But we cannot let this be normal. When we read these headlines, we need to remember: Something is wrong here. Adam Toledo should not be dead.

Reports say that Adam was seen “holding a gun” at some point during the altercation with police. Prosecutors claim that gun residue was found on his hand. Until the body-worn camera footage was released, the prosecutors were claiming the boy had actually shot at the police — a claim that turned out to be absolutely false.

But regardless of what happened — whether or not he had a gun at any point during the altercation — none of it justifies him getting shot by police.

When I heard the news that the video from the police bodycam might be released, I told myself I would not watch it. Between the testimony, images, and evidence presented at Derek Chauvin’s trial, I couldn’t stomach watching another recording of the moment a life was taken from this world.

But I watched.

I watched it and I was not prepared for what I saw, just like I was not prepared to see the murder of George Floyd. But I watched the video more than once, and I cried, asking myself over and over again: What happened?

A 21-year-old man, Ruben Roman, was arrested at the scene, shirtless and breathless, and taken into custody at 2:45 am. Meanwhile, police tried to revive Adam, who lay lifeless on the ground, unresponsive.

Now a mother will never again hold her her child and a whole community is grieving.

We are yet again a nation grappling with this, with a person of color who died on the street at the hands of police.

Did these cops stop to think about what they were doing? Did they think about what would happen if they discharged their weapons? Did they realize they were using deadly force on a middle schooler, a 13-year-old little boy?

When I watched the video, what I saw was a child. A boy who followed orders — stopped, turned, froze — and then I could hear the policeman’s gun go off.

Police union lawyer Timothy Grace gave a press conference where he spoke on behalf of the shooter, Officer Stillman: “The juvenile had a handgun in his right hand, given verbal direction, told to drop and stop and to adhere to the police officer’s valid, lawful orders and the juvenile begins to turn.”

“At that point (the officer) has no cover, no concealment, he’s left with no other option. He feels horrible about the outcome. He feels horrible he had to use deadly force. No police officer wants to use deadly force in the line of duty. He was well within his justification of using deadly force, he just feels horrible,” he continued.

I am stuck on a few words from his statement: No police officer wants to use deadly force in the line of duty.

But they do use deadly force, Mr. Union Lawyer. They do. Not only do they use deadly force, but they are killing Brown and Black people at alarming, scary, grossly disproportionate rates.

In the video you can hear how the officer’s voice changes after the lethal shots are fired. In that moment, the officer actually sounds scared. He rushes in, calls for an ambulance, tries to resuscitate him by performing CPR. But it’s too late. His actions have already caused the death of Adam Toledo. Adam, a child, was pronounced dead at 2:46am.

Again and again and again we see this happen, and we keep talking about it, and still it does not change, it does not stop. Police use excessive force which too often turns deadly. Cops react and then think, and it needs to be the other way around. Officer Stillman made a decision. The question he needed to ask himself was: Do I want to kill this child? If Officer Stillman had chosen differently, Adam would be alive today.

I said it after the murder of George Floyd, after Eric Garner, after Daunte Wright — we should all be angry. This should hurt us all. Our country has a problem just as bad as COVID-19 and lives are being lost, senselessly, daily. Racism is a pandemic too. Black and Brown lives do matter, but when will the police believe that?

Mr. Police Officer, will you save a life? Next time, Ms. Police Officer, will you call for backup and stay calm? Will you believe that every life matters?

We need police who will make the right decision every single time. Our lives depend on it, and the lives of our kids do too.