Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Monday vowed to hold the adults responsible for "putting a gun into the hands" of 13-year-old Adam Toledo, who was fatally shot by Chicago police during a foot pursuit last week.
"Let’s be clear. An adult put a gun in a child’s hand. A young and 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," Lightfoot said at a press conference at New Life Church. "This happens way too often in our city. And it’s way past time for us to say, ‘no more.’"
Toledo was fatally shot around 2:30 a.m. on March 29 by an on-duty police officer responding to a call about shots fired in the Little Village neighborhood, the Chicago Tribune reported. Another individual, 21-year-old Ruben Roman, was arrested at the scene but provided officers with a "phony name," Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown said Monday. A gun was recovered at the scene, police said.
Lightfoot said she directed the police superintendent and the chief of detectives "to use every resource to track down the origins of this gun – through tracing, fingerprinting and DNA and any other means – and to find the person responsible for giving it to Adam."
"I want to bring that person or persons responsible for putting that gun in Adam’s hands to justice," the mayor said. "Gangs are preying on our most vulnerable, corrupting these young minds with promises of familia and lucre. Like good shepherds, we have to better tend to our flocks to keep the wolves at bay. And when the wolves dare try to take one of ours, we must hit them hard with the staff of a community united against the evils that threaten our youth."
Explaining why the police department did not identify Toledo until three days after the shooting, Brown said Toledo’s mother, Elizabeth Toledo, walked into the Ogden District Station to report him missing on March 26.
A police detective followed up the next day, and when the woman said her son had returned home, his name was removed from police department records as being missing, Brown said. After the 13-year-old was killed, Brown said police took his fingerprints three times but found no records for him. Investigators also looked into both active and inactive missing persons reports.
Two days after the shooting, police contacted Elizabeth Toledo at about 1 p.m. on Wednesday and told her a description of her son matched that of an unidentified person at the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office, Brown said. She identified him at 3:30 p.m. that day.
"My hope is that these gang members aren’t foolish enough to do something. But, I am determined. We will find the person who put this gun in Adam’s hand. We will not be deterred by threats from gang members," Lightfoot said, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
"An adult must be [held] responsible for putting a gun in a child’s hand," the mayor continued. "We have an obligation to his family, to this community and all over our city to say to gang members and others, ‘We will not tolerate you using our children as pawns and setting them up for a life of misery.’ That’s what’s happening in way too many communities. And here’s where we must, must draw the line."
Lightfoot also directed Brown to draft a new foot pursuit policy before the anticipated summer surge in violence – reforms that still have not been put in place four years after the Justice Department recommended that the Chicago Police Department develop a new policy given how "poor police practices" make for "tactically unsound foot pursuits" that pose a danger to both officers and public.
"It is one of the most dangerous things that they engage in. They often get separated from their partners. Communication is difficult. You’re running through a dense, urban environment. An alley, a street, a backyard," Lightfoot said. "It’s way past time that we reckon with this reality that happens literally multiple times every day across many neighborhoods in our city, hundreds of times a year."