By Holly Matkin and Sandy Malone
Chicago, IL – Chicago’s newly-appointed police superintendent has changed the course of the disciplinary proceedings pending against the officer who fatally shot 13-year-old Adam Toledo during a foot pursuit in 2021.
The armed teen dropped his gun just a split-second before the officer fired the deadly round, according to WLS.
Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx announced in March of 2022 that her office would not be charging 36-year-old Chicago Police Officer Eric Stillman in connection with the fatal officer-involved shooting, WFLD reported.
Foxx said the decision was made only after a thorough investigation by the state’s attorney’s office and an independent outside agency.
She said that “based on the facts, the evidence, and the law, we found that there’s no evidence to prove that Officer Stillman acted with criminal intent,” WFLD reported.
Foxx said that although Officer Stillman may have violated the Chicago Police Department’s (CPD) chase policy, her office did not find criminal charges against the officer were warranted.
The Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) recommended at the time that Officer Tillman be fired, but then-CPD Superintendent David Brown instead recommended the decorated six-year department veteran be suspended for five days for failing to activate his bodycam, WMAQ reported.
The matter went before the Chicago Police Board, which determined a full disciplinary hearing needed to be held in the matter, according to WLS.
But before those proceedings could move forward, the police superintendent needed to sign off on charges against the officer.
Now-former Superintendent Brown did not sign off on the disciplinary charges against Officer Stillman prior to his retirement last month.
His successor, CPD Superintendent Eric Carter, filed charges with the Chicago Police Board on April 10, recommending Officer Stillman be fired, WMAQ reported.
Superintendent Carter alleged Officer Stillman violated seven CPD rules during the incident with Toledo and claimed he failed to utilize de-escalation techniques to “prevent the use of deadly force as a last resort.”
“Officer Stillman’s use of deadly force was not necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm from an imminent threat posed to Officer Stillman or another person…” the superintendent alleged in the filing, according to WMAQ.
The hearings on Officer Stillman’s potential termination are slated to begin on May 1, WLS reported.
Tim Grace, the attorney representing Stillman, said his client defended himself during a quickly-unfolding incident that ended in tragedy.
“The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office investigated this case and correctly concluded that the use of force by Officer Stillman was proper and within Illinois law,” Grace told WLS in a statement. “There is no reason or justification for the City of Chicago to have sought termination on this case.”
“The members of the Chicago Police Department continue to work under amazingly difficult circumstances, yet still come to work each day to protect the citizens from the gun-wielding offenders who terrorize our City,” he added. “The work of the men and women of the Chicago Police Department should not be ostracized but rather given the appropriate amount of appreciation that is deserved.”
Grace described Toledo’s death as a tragedy “caused by gang violence that is epidemic on our streets,” not by Officer Stillman.
“We now enter the next phase of Officer Stillman’s long journey which is to try and separate him from the Chicago Police Department,” he told WLS. “It is not only a sad day for the police officers, and public safety but also to all Chicagoans. We look forward to presenting our case to the Police Board and believe his actions will be deemed justified.”
Toledo’s family said Superintendent Carter’s push to fire Officer Stillman is “brave” and that they are hopeful the officer will be removed from the force, WLS reported.
“Firing Eric Stillman will not bring our Adam back… but will take us one step closer to Justice for Adam,” the family said in a statement. “This brave decision will send a much-needed message to the Chicago Police Department… that its officers must respect the sanctity of human life… and strictly follow CPD’s policies and training while doing their job.”
The fatal shooting occurred when officers were responding to a ShotSpotter alert in Little Village at approximately 2:35 a.m. on March 29, 2021 and encountered two males, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
One of the males, later identified as Toledo, was armed with a handgun and took off running, according to police.
During the ensuing “armed confrontation” in the alley west of the 2300-block of South Sawyer Avenue, Officer Stillman fired a single round, striking Toledo in the chest, police said.
He died from his wounds at the scene, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
Elizabeth Toledo, Toledo’s 44-year-old mother, identified her son at the morgue two days later after she filed a missing person report with police.
His mother told police her son often snuck out of their home and that she ended up filing a missing person’s report on him after he took off again on March 25, 2021, WLS reported.
She said Toledo had returned home two days later, but that he was gone again by the night of March 28, 2021.
Before the next morning, he was dead.
COPA released bodycam video of the shooting on April 15, 2021.
Bodycam video showed the officer chasing Toledo down the alley, yelling at him to drop his weapon.
“Freeze stop! Stop right f–king now!” the officer yelled in the video as he chased the fleeing suspect.
Surveillance video from across a parking lot next to the alley showed Toledo running from police.
That video showed Toledo stopped beside an opening in the parking lot fence.
“Hey show me your f–king hands! Drop it, drop it!” the officer yelled as he caught up with Toledo, who appeared in the video to be about to dash behind the fence line.
Toledo turned his right side away from the officer, his right elbow raised behind his back as if he was drawing a gun, and his right hand contained what appeared to be a gun.
The teen then quickly raised his arm up from his right side, and his hand was empty.
At some point while raising his hand, Toledo apparently tossed the gun down the fence line, out of the view of the officer and the camera.
The video showed that the officer could only see Toledo turn quickly while raising the right hand which had held a pistol a split-second earlier.
The officer fired one shot and only then, as the suspect turned and fell, could he see that Toledo wasn’t holding a gun.
The officer immediately began providing First Aid and radioed for an ambulance and an officer to rush over a medic bag for a “sucking chest wound to the upper chest.”
Officer Stillman is a 36-year-old, six-year veteran of the Chicago police force who has never had a civilian complaint, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
The officer has a military background and previously received the Superintendent’s Award of Valor from the Chicago PD.