A Chicago police officer shot and wounded an unarmed 13-year-old boy who ran from a car being sought in an Oak Park carjacking, a shooting captured on multiple cameras and now under investigation, officials said.
Chicago police officers at about 10:30 p.m. May 18 stopped the driver of a stolen car they suspected had been involved in the Oak Park carjacking near Chicago and Cicero avenues, police said. The boy, who had been in the car, got out and ran away as officers walked up to it, officials said. The driver of the car drove off.
Officers chased the boy to the 800 block of North Cicero Avenue, where one officer shot him, police said. The boy was hospitalized in serious condition, according to a Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) spokesperson.
COPA investigators, who probe police shootings, collected body camera footage from the officer who fired the shot, city surveillance video from the scene and “third-party” video of the incident, but the agency said it won’t be released, according to a statement. No weapon was recovered at the scene, officials said.
“Worse fear confirmed!” anti-violence group GoodKids MadCity tweeted after the shooting. “Especially knowing how this child will be handcuffed to the hospital bed, criminalized by the media & silenced from sharing their version of what happened, locked away in the” Juvenile Temporary Detention Center.
Officers were not wounded, but two were taken to a hospital “for observation,” police said. They were in good condition. The officers involved will be placed on routine administrative duties for 30 days, police said.
At a news conference May 19, Chicago Police Supt. David Brown said the Honda Accord the boy had been in was reported stolen May 16 from the West Loop and later used in the carjacking of an Oak Park mother, who had left her Honda CR-V running with her 3-year-old daughter in the backseat, Brown said. The girl was found unharmed in the vehicle shortly after.
Police said the CR-V thief got into a Honda Accord after ditching the car and the child.
License plate readers in the city spotted the Accord “numerous times” Wednesday, indicating the car was “driving around Chicago,” Brown said. A license plate reader pinged the car at Roosevelt Road and Independence Boulevard at 10:12 p.m. Wednesday, Brown said. A police helicopter started following the car and alerted officers on the ground, Brown said.
Officers stopped the car at Chicago and Cicero avenues about 12 minutes later, Brown said.
After the 13-year-old ran away from the car and officers chased him, Brown said the boy “turns toward” police before the officer shot him. Earlier statements from police and COPA did not include that detail. Brown said no shots were fired at officers.
Brown would not answer questions about where the boy was shot, or give any details about the officer who fired their weapon.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot issued a statement Thursday, saying she has “full confidence” in the probe of the shooting.
“I am aware of the officer involved shooting that resulted in a thirteen-year-old being shot by a Chicago police officer yesterday evening,” the mayor said. “I have been in contact with Superintendent Brown and the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, led by Chief Administrator Andrea Kersten, is actively investigating this matter. I have full confidence that COPA will investigate this incident expeditiously with the full cooperation of the Chicago Police Department.”
The shooting comes a little more than a year after a Chicago police officer fatally shot another 13-year-old, Adam Toledo, during a foot chase in Little Village. In that instance, COPA leaders also initially said they could not release video of the shooting — though they eventually released it amid public pressure.
Video of his shooting — which showed Toledo had a gun, though he dropped it less than a second before an officer shot him — garnered national attention and led to protests in the city. Prosecutors eventually announced they will not pursue charges against the officer who shot Toledo.
The police department updated its foot chase policy after the shooting of Toledo, but critics have said it still largely allows foot chases that can lead to danger for those being chased and for officers.
Asked Thursday if this was a reasonable shooting since the boy was unarmed, Brown said it will be up to COPA to determine if officers followed the department’s foot pursuit and use of force policies.
“If we’re going to jump to conclusions and not conduct an investigation, then shame on us all,” Brown said. “There’s a lot of evidence, a lot of work that needs to be done. … We cannot draw conclusions to an investigation that just started last night.”
West Siders who work or do community organizing in the area said the shooting underscores broad problems with policing in Black and Brown neighborhoods.
Marcus Davis, who works at a restaurant across the street from where the shooting occurred, questioned why officers did not use a TASER or some other form of nondeadly force before shooting the boy. The incident illustrates how “police go for the kill too fast,” Davis said.
“What was the point of you shooting? They need to be fired,” Davis said of the officers involved. “Carjacking is serious, but that still don’t mean shoot a little kid. That’s a child.”
Even when interacting with children and teenagers, officers are often quick to resort to deadly force because they are not connected with the struggles people experience in the neighborhood, community organizer Aisha Oliver said.
“A lot of those officers don’t live in our neighborhoods,” Oliver said. “They don’t look like us and they come with that mindset that most of these kids, most of us are criminals. No matter how much training they have, the world has taught them to look at us as criminals.”
The city needs to hold officers accountable when things like this happen, Oliver said.
“Why are we not holding officers accountable for the things they do, as well? The same way we would with that young man that got caught carjacking — you’re going to get him and lock him up. But we don’t hold officers to that same standard,” Oliver said.
But accountability is a two-way road, Oliver said. Communities need to be “just as outraged” at the street violence that harms local youth even when it doesn’t involve police, she said.
Oliver works with local teenagers in Austin on strategies to keep each other safe, such as last summer’s Austin Safety Action Plan for creating a safety zone anchored by local schools, parks and community centers. Building a more peaceful community starts with understanding why so many people engage in harmful behavior, she said.
“We can stop those things, but people have to be really willing to put in the work. There is no quick fix,” Oliver said.
Oliver and the youth she organizes talked to people known to be involved in carjackings in the neighborhood” to figure out the why behind it,” she said.
“One young man told me that he hasn’t been eating. He has a parent that’s on drugs … and when his back is against the wall, he has to find ways to feed himself. It’s so many layers to it,” Oliver said.
The carjacking and street violence on the West Side is unacceptable, Oliver said. But to fix those issues, “people need to get a better understanding of where these kids are coming from, and the lack that they’re suffering from and the broken homes,” she said.
Police must focus more on building relationships in the community with residents and businesses to proactively prevent crime in Austin rather than reacting with force when incidents do happen, said Veah Larde, owner of Two Sisters Restaurant and Catering across the street from the shooting.
“You sometimes need to take that moment to assess,” Larde said. “We’re just shooting from the hip and then you find out it’s not what you thought it was. And you can’t take back a bullet. At the end of the day, we’re dealing with human life.”
Officers need to have a better understanding of the challenges people face in the neighborhoods they police and be more involved in the community to more effectively take on crime, Larde said.
“We’ve become so desensitized that we don’t see people as people … instead of thinking that everybody is bad, we need to ask ourselves why is this young person doing what they’re doing,” Larde said.
Stacey Sheridan with Wednesday Journal, contributed to this report.