CHICAGO — The president of the Chicago Police Board ruled on Thursday that Chicago police officer Eric Stillman will face an evidentiary hearing for the fatal March 2021 shooting of 13-year-old Adam Toledo on the city’s Southwest Side. The trial-like process will be used by the other seven members of the Chicago Police board to determine whether or not Stillman will face disciplinary measures — up to, and including, termination — for the shooting.
The Civilian Office of Police Accountability, the agency that investigates use-of-force incidents by CPD officers, concluded its report on the shooting last April and recommended to CPD Supt. David Brown that Stillman be fired from the department.
Brown disagreed, instead saying that Stillman should face lesser discipline, the extent of which was not immediately known. That disagreement triggered a process that mandated a single member of the CPD board — in this case, Board President Ghian Foreman, who was selected at random — decide whether or not Stillman would face administrative charges as part of a trial-like procedure known as an evidentiary hearing.
“Based on a thorough review of the material, the parties and the public will benefit from a full evidentiary hearing on this matter, and so referring this matter for a hearing before the full police board will be the appropriate next step,” Foreman said during the board’s monthly meeting, which was held via video conference.
“Let me be clear: with this ruling, I am not saying that the chief administrator’s recommendation is right and that the superintendent is wrong, nor am I saying that Officer Stillman should be suspended while this case is pending before the police board,” Foreman continued. “Rather, I am saying that a police board hearing that provides due process for all parties is necessary to determine whether Officer Stillman violated any of the Chicago Police Department’s rules of conduct and, if so, the proper disciplinary action.”
Earlier this year, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx announced her office would not bring criminal charges against Stillman. The Toledo family, meanwhile, filed a still-pending wrongful death lawsuit against Stillman in Chicago’s federal court.
Stillman shot and killed the 13-year-old Adam around 2:30 a.m. on March 29, 2021 in the 2300 block of South Spaulding Avenue in the Little Village neighborhood.
Adam was shot after he and another man allegedly ran away from police who were responding to the area for a report of gunfire.
COPA last year released 17 bodyworn camera videos, four third-party videos and several audio transmissions and police reports related to the shooting.
Stillman’s own bodyworn camera footage showed he and his partner briefly chasing Adam and the other man — identified as Ruben Roman — through an alley near Farragut Career Academy High School. Stillman’s partner quickly tackles Roman, while Stillman goes after Adam.
While chasing the teen, Stillman repeatedly tells him to “stop right f—— now” and to “show me your f—— hands.” The officer also tells Adam to “drop it.”
Adam can be seen briefly ducking behind a break in a fence near Farragut, then quickly reemerging. Stillman was standing about 10 feet away, pointing his gun and a flashlight at the teen. Moments later, Adam turns toward Stillman with both his hands raised, and the officer fires a single shot, striking Adam in the upper left side of his chest, near his heart.
After he’s shot, the teen stumbles backward and collapses to the pavement. Officers immediately run to him, and Stillman is the first to start rendering CPR while calling for more medical aid. More than a dozen additional CPD officers soon arrive at the scene.
As other officers and Chicago Fire Department personnel continue to perform life-saving procedures, the officer who fired the shot soon finds a gun near the break in fence where the boy was shot.
Stillman joined the CPD in 2015 after having served in Afghanistan in the United States Marine Corps.
The process that played out Thursday night is known as a “request for review.”
After a police shooting occurs, COPA investigates the shooting and submits a report of findings to the superintendent of the CPD. The superintendent then must decide whether to agree or disagree with the findings and any disciplinary recommendations.
If the superintendent disagrees with COPA, a single member of the nine-person Chicago police board is selected at random to review the case and decide whether or not the officer will face an evidentiary hearing — the police board’s version of a trial.
Evidentiary hearings — which are overseen by a hearing officer and video-recorded so they may be reviewed by police board members at a later date — typically last one to four days. The hearings feature attorneys for the superintendent — acting as de facto prosecutors — and attorneys for the accused officer arguing the officer’s guilty or innocence, calling witnesses and presenting evidence.
The remaining seven members of the police board — there is currently a vacancy — then review the proceedings and vote on whether or not the superintendent’s attorneys proved the officer’s guilt of the administrative charges brought against them. If the board finds that superintendent’s attorneys met their burden, they will order discipline on the officer, including possible termination.
Cook County prosecutors later charged Ruben Roman — the 21-year-old arrested after the shooting — with three counts of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon and one count of reckless discharge of a firearm, according to court records. The case is still in the pre-trial phase, and, earlier this month, Roman’s attorney filed a motion that seeks to “bar any lay witness, including police officers and detectives from identifying Mr. Roman in any surveillance video, except for the body worn camera that was captured when he was arrested.”
“The videos speak for themselves and it is a matter for the finder of fact to decide whether any unidentified person in the video is or is not Mr. Roman,” his attorneys wrote. “Any opinion testimony about who the video depicts would improperly intrude on the province if the finder of fact.”
The next hearing in the case is scheduled for later this month.