With the nation already on edge due to the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for the death of George Floyd, and the accidental shooting in nearby Brooklyn Park, the death of 13-year-old Adam Toledo by Chicago police is adding to the emotion.
In post-Obama America, it seems every police shooting draws intense media scrutiny if the suspect is a person of color, with a rush to assert racial implications, often with little or no evidence. But when it involves someone as young as Toledo, there’s even more attention.
But as “horrific” as the body-cam footage of the young teen’s death is, as CNN anchor Anderson Cooper stated, the network’s own law enforcement analyst was clear that the shooting was “reasonable.”
Charles Ramsey, the former Washington, D.C. chief of police and Philadelphia Police Commissioner, also shared that he has seen additional footage of events.
“First of all, let me start by saying that it is a tragedy anytime someone loses their life, particularly a young person,” Ramsey said. “It is a tragedy. But I too saw that video. In addition, I saw other videos. I went to the Civilian Office of Police Accountability website that investigates these things for Chicago PD. They have several videos there.”
“In my opinion, tragic as it was, the shooting was reasonable,” he added.
Toledo, who was reportedly referred to in the neighborhood as “Lil’ Homicide” or “Bvby Diablo,” was out at 2:40 in the morning with a 21-year-old, Ramsey explained, and there were reports of gunshots in the area — Chicago employs what is known as “shotspotter” technology, which alerts police.
An officer who responded to the area is seen in body-cam footage chasing Toledo down an alleyway, and the teen appears to have a handgun in his right hand. He suddenly pulls up and turns toward the officer, who fired his weapon. After shooting the teen, the officer began frantically applying first aid.
As seen in slow-motion, Toledo had what appeared to be a gun in his right hand, which was on the opposite side of his body from the officer. As he turned toward the officer and drew his hands up, the right hand was empty, although this occurred in a split second in a dark alley — whether he tossed the weapon or not isn’t clear, but a handgun was found a few feet away.
As might be expected, given that it is CNN, Cooper said, “We should point out there was a gun on the ground in that spot,” adding “if he did not throw it there, unless — then somebody else placed it there.”
“There is a gun on the other side of the fence,” Ramsey explained. “There’s an opening there, and the gun is on the other side, maybe about 5 feet. But when he spins around like that, if he had the gun in his right hand, that could have flown right out of his hand, either as he was shot or he was trying to get rid of it as he was shot.”
“But it was literally less than a second from the time the officer saw the gun and the time he fired that shot,” he added. “I believe that’s reasonable.”
Citing heightened emotions, Ramsey insisted that this wasn’t a case of inappropriate force.
“I know right now everybody’s, you know, blood in the water, about policing,” the former police officer said. “And I have not hesitated to speak up whenever officers inappropriately use force of any kind. This ain’t one of those cases. I don’t know how many people have ever chased an armed person down an alley at night. I have and I know what it’s like, believe me.”
John Catanzara, the head of Chicago Police Union, appeared on “Cuomo Prime Time” to call the shooting “100 percent justified,” saying “that officer’s actions were actually heroic.”
“Time-lapse photo shows that that officer had 8/10’s of a second to determine if that weapon was still in his hand or not. Period,” Catanzara said. “There’s no way a rational person can say they can process that and their muscle reaction would be less than one second.”
“The officer does not have to wait to be shot at or shot in order to respond and defend himself,” he added. “There’s no obligation whatsoever.”
The union chief also noted the gun found on the ground was seen immediately by the officer, while he was rendering aid.
Pressed by anchor Chris Cuomo on why it was a justified shooting, Catanzara cited a similar incident from 2001.
“Because there was no way the officer could see where his arm went behind the fence panel. It was totally blocked by the fence itself,” he said. “I’ll tell you, we’re coming up on the 20 year anniversary of a friend of mine, Officer Brian Straus, who was shot in the middle of the night by a teenage gang banger. June 30th of 2001. Brian didn’t make it out of the alley that night. Again, we do not have to wait to be shot to respond. The officer had every reason to believe that that offender was turning and pointing the gun at him.”
“You can Monday morning quarterback it all you want,” Catanzara continued, “but according to Illinois statute, you only need to have a reasonable belief in order to take deadly action. And no person in their right mind would not say that they would have been in fear of their life in that same situation in less than one second to react on whether that gun was still there or not.”
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