Police Officer Kills 13-Year Old Child
(IL) – On March 29, Chicago police officer, Eric Stillman, shot and killed 13-year old Adam Toledo. A prosecutor gave a press release in which he stated that Toledo had a gun when he was shot by Stillman. Video has now emerged that shows that was not the case. I suspect the family will file a wrongful death lawsuit against the city and that it will be a difficult case because of the short timeframe in which the event unfolded.
Here’s what we know. The Chicago Police Department became aware of shots fired and dispatched officers. Officer Stillman and his partner arrived at the location where Toledo was standing with a 21-year old man. Toledo ran. Stillman let his partner handle the 21-year old while he continued to chase Toledo. Officer Stillman yelled out, “‘stop,’ and then ‘show me your f**king hands.'” Toledo tosses the empty gun behind the fence, then turns to comply with Officer Stillman’s orders. Toledo gets his hands above the height of his shoulders and is shot and killed by Stillman.
Use of Force by Police
Police officers are taught a use of force continuum. The guideline tells them how they are allowed to react under different circumstances up to deadly force. The guidelines are also used to protect officers to show they were correct in the level of force they used. Unfortunately, they can also be used to make an officers actions appear to fit into categories that support the force the officer used.
In the Toledo case, I’m not sure if Officer Stillman saw that Toledo had a gun. If he did know, why would he tell Toledo to show his hands? The last thing he should want would be someone with a gun moving his hands around. If Officer Stillman did not know about the gun, why did he shoot Toledo when Toledo complied with the orders? Why give a command that you will shoot someone for following? Nothing makes sense.
How was Adam Toledo Supposed to Respond?
Officer Stillman put Adam Toledo in a no win situation. Think about it. What was Adam Toledo supposed to do to survive his encounter with the officer? Why is everyone saying that the officer had to make a split second decision yet no one is mentioning that a 13-year old boy was somehow supposed to know what Officer Stillman really meant for him to do, within a split second? He was 13-years old. He did run at first, and he did throw the empty gun behind the fence, but then he did what the officer told him to do. It’s a natural instinct to turn toward the person who is speaking to you.
Shoot Before You Need To
A long time ago I read a story about an officer who had survived several deadly situations. The story was praising him for being such a good officer. When asked how he had managed it he responded that he shot one second before he needed to. That was shocking for me. Didn’t people see that he was saying he shoots people when the situation has not escalated to that point yet? Police shootings, like the Toledo one, make me think of the ways police officers justify murder and remind me of that old story.
Police Body Cameras are Changing the Narrative
We’ve discovered that we can’t depend on what is written in police reports to be the truth. Police body cameras have repeatedly shown us that officers write reports in a way that downplays their bad actions. What we have also discovered is that officers aren’t as proficient as we thought they were. We are now seeing that they make all kinds of mistakes that frequently lead to wrongful deaths. Mistakes like mistaking a gun for a Taser, giving conflicting orders, shooting because the suspect complied with the officer’s orders. Those are not accidental deaths. They are deaths due to incompetence, and if they’re not flat out murder, they are at least manslaughter.
Will Criminal Charges be Filed?
I seriously doubt criminal charges will be filed against Officer Stillman. Investigators, even from a different agency, don’t want officers to be tried in court. People want to support police officers. Jurors on a Grand Jury will look at how quickly things happened and feel he made the best decision he could under the circumstances.
Remember, there is only the District Attorney’s Office putting their case before the Grand Jury. If the D.A. doesn’t want the officer to face any consequences, but wants the appearance of letting the Grand Jury decide, they can put on their case in a way to favor the officer. Just look at what happened to in the Breonna Taylor case. No defense attorney is allowed in to testify in front of the Grand Jury on behalf of Adam Toledo.
The family has a better chance of winning a settlement in a wrongful death lawsuit, which is probably where this will all end up.
About Officer Eric Stillman
According to BBC.com, Officer Stillman “is a 34-year-old military veteran who joined the force in 2015. He has had four use of force reports and three complaints filed against him, according to the Invisible Institute, which publishes data about police misconduct in Chicago.” He was not found guilty of any of the complaints against him, but we know how that goes in police departments. Stillman is currently on administrative duty while the police shooting is being investigated.