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

Ryan W. Miller, Grace Hauck and Christine Fernando, USA TODAY
·9 min read

Warning: Story describes graphic content.

CHICAGO – Outcry is growing after a watchdog agency released disturbing video Thursday of a Chicago police officer shooting 13-year-old Adam Toledo who appeared to have his hands up, casting doubt on prior accounts from police and city officials who initially described the incident as an "armed confrontation."

The officer who fatally shot Adam last month was also identified Thursday as Eric Stillman, 34, who is white.

Adam is seen in Stillman's body-camera video running down an alley as Stillman chases him in a largely Latino neighborhood on the city's West Side. As Adam slows down near a fence and turns to face Stillman with his hands up, the officer fires within a second. Surveillance video filmed from across a parking lot, also released Thursday, shows Adam tossing what appeared to be a gun behind the fence before turning toward Stillman.

"Simply put, we failed Adam, and we cannot afford to fail one more young person in our city," Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Thursday before the videos were released. She called for calm and peace and asked Chicagoans to "reserve judgment" and "wait until we hear all the facts."

More on Adam Toledo case: Body camera videos show 13-year-old Adam Toledo put hands up before fatal police shooting

Hours after the videos were released Thursday, a handful of protesters gathered downtown in Millennium Park hours. Several held two banners: one with the words "BLACK LIVES MATTER" and the other with the words "DEFUND THE POLICE."

Chicago has been preparing for potential unrest following the video's release. Lightfoot said the city has "been preparing for the Chauvin trial for months now. And as part of those preparations, we have been in regular contact with businesses all across the city, not just in the downtown area."

A smattering of downtown businesses and office buildings, especially near commercials strips along Michigan Avenue and State Street, had already boarded up their windows by Friday afternoon. The sound of drilling could be heard outside many stores, where workers continued to put up plywood boards. Small clusters of police officers could be seen on State Street and near Millennium Park, the site of a small protest Thursday night.

While the demonstrations were not widespread in the city Thursday, more protests and vigils were planned Friday.

Ahead of Friday's protests, the Toledo family thanked Chicago's Latino community and Little Village residents for their support and asked that "everyone who gathers in Adam's name to remain peaceful, respectful and nonviolent and to continue to work constructively and tirelessly for reform," according to a statement from the family's attorneys.

The videos of the shooting comes as the country remains on edge amid the trial of Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd and after a police officer in Minnesota fatally shot 20-year-old Daunte Wright during a traffic stop Sunday.

Here's what we know Friday:

What do the videos of Adam Toledo's shooting show? What do we know about the gun?

According to police, officers were responding to reports of shots fired in the Little Village neighborhood in the early hours of March 29 when Adam and 21-year-old Ruben Roman fled. Roman can be seen on surveillance video firing the rounds that brought police to the scene before he and Adam fled. As Roman was arrested, another officer chased Adam.

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Stillman's body-cam video shows he pulled up in a car, got out, pushed past another man – presumably Roman – and ran down an alley shouting "stop" toward Adam, who was dressed in jeans, a sweatshirt and white baseball cap.

Adam ran away from Stillman, then slowed down and paused near a fence, behind which the other surveillance video showed Adam throwing the gun.

Stillman shouted for Adam to "stop it" or "drop it." Adam turned toward the officer and put his hands up. The footage is grainy, but he did not appear to have a gun in either hand at that moment. Stillman fired his weapon less than a second after Adam turned around to face him with his hands raised.

Adam clutched his chest and fell to the ground, and the officer got on his radio and said, "Get an ambulance here now."

Stillman shouted for more help as Adam was beneath him, his eyes open and bleeding from the mouth and chest. "Stay with me," the officer said. About a minute after firing, he told other officers he couldn't feel a heartbeat and began chest compressions.

After attempting medical aid, Stillman stood up and paced. At least half a dozen other officers arrived. As Stillman walked to the back side of the fence where Adam had been standing, the officer shined a light on what looks to be the gun leaning against the fence.

According to a police response report, Adam was armed with a semiautomatic pistol that was "displayed, not used." The officer listed "defense of self" as a reason for shooting.

The scene at 24th and S. Sawyer in Chicago's Little Village neighborhood Thursday April 15, 2021, where 13-year-old Adam Toledo was fatally shot by a Chicago officer in March.
The scene at 24th and S. Sawyer in Chicago's Little Village neighborhood Thursday April 15, 2021, where 13-year-old Adam Toledo was fatally shot by a Chicago officer in March.

Who is officer Eric Stillman?

Eric Stillman was identified Thursday as the officer who shot Adam. He has been placed on administrative leave for 30 days. Stillman is a 10th district patrol officer and has been with the department since August 2015, according to case incident report.

Three complaints and four use of force reports have been filed against Stillman between 2017 and mid-2020, according to the Invisible Institute, which records police interactions with the public. Among the allegations filed by citizens were two that claimed improper searches of cars, and use-of-force violations. However, information on the disposition of those cases is unclear from the records.

The city's Civilian Office of Police Accountability, which investigates cases of potential police misconduct, 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 related to Adam's shooting.

In a lengthy email to the Associated Press, Stillman's attorney, Tim Grace, said Toledo left the officer no choice but to shoot.

"The juvenile offender had the gun in his right hand ... looked at the officer, which could be interpreted as attempting to acquire a target, and began to turn to face the officer attempting to swing the gun in his direction," Grace wrote. "At this point the officer was faced with a life-threatening and deadly force situation. All prior attempts to deescalate and gain compliance with all of the officer's lawful orders had failed."

Police and city officials previously released accounts of what happened during the shooting that conflict with what the videos appear to show.

The latest on the Derek Chauvin trial: The evidence is in at the trial of Derek Chauvin, charged in the death of George Floyd. What happens now?

On March 29, the day of 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.

In early April, Lightfoot suggested Adam was holding a gun, saying "an adult put a gun in a child’s hand." Saturday, prosecutors alleged Adam was holding a gun when the officer shot him.

Lightfoot on Thursday changed her phrasing, 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."

Sarah Sinovic, chief spokeswoman for the Cook County State’s Attorney, said Thursday 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."

Who was Adam Toledo?

Adam was a "loved and supported 13-year-old boy" from a "close-knit family," the family said in a statement through lawyers earlier this month. He lived with his mother, his 90-year-old grandfather and two of his siblings, and his father was in his life, the statement said.

He attended Gary Elementary School, where he had the support of his teachers and his classmates, the statement said. According to Chicago Public Schools, Gary is a high-rated school serving more than 900 students from third through eighth grade. Nearly 98% of students are Hispanic, and 95% are low income.

Adam's family was shown the video of their son's death Tuesday but asked it not be immediately released to the public.

"The experience was extremely difficult and heartbreaking for everyone present and especially for Adam's family," family attorneys Adeena Weiss-Ortiz and Joel Hirschhorn said in a statement Tuesday. Thursday morning, the lawyers issued a joint statement with the mayor's office, saying "both parties agree that all material should be released."

"No one should have a video broadcast widely of their child's last moments, much less be placed in the terrible situation of losing their child in the first place," Lightfoot said during Thursday's news conference.

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What happens next?

Chicago's Civilian Office of Police Accountability is investigating the shooting. The office's chief administrator Sydney Roberts asked for the public's patience during the investigation at a police board meeting Thursday following the release of the footage. She said that before the civilian panel replaced the previous Independent Police Review Authority in 2016, internal investigations took two or three years. She said the investigations now take an average of 18 months.

"We are investigating the death of a young man that is going to take time: time for the interviews, time for the forensic analysis that comes through, time to review the medical examiner's report . . . and those things are things that" the review board has no control over, Roberts said.

After the accountability office completes its investigation, if allegations of improper conduct are sustained, the office will send its recommendations on punishments to Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown, who will have 90 days to review the recommendations, Brown said at the meeting. If Brown agrees with the recommendations, they will be sent to the city's Department of Law and then filed before the police board.

If Brown disagrees with the recommendations made by the civilian panel, the issue will go before the police board.

Stillman may also face charges following an investigation by the Cook County State's Attorney's Office.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Adam Toledo video: Officer Eric Stillman ID'd; what to know about gun