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Illinois prosecutor Kim Foxx admits 'breakdown of communication' in Adam Toledo case

The 13-year-old boy's fatal shooting by Chicago police "has been clouded by the confusion and frustration my office has caused and for this I apologize," Foxx said.
Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx speaks to the media on Feb. 23, 2019.
Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx speaks to the media on Feb. 23, 2019.Kamil Krzaczynski / Reuters file

The top prosecutor in Cook County, Illinois, admitted to a "breakdown of communication" in how her office presented information about the fatal shooting of a 13-year-old boy by Chicago police, according to the findings of an internal review released Wednesday.

State's Attorney Kim Foxx apologized for her office's handling of the shooting death of the boy, Adam Toledo, who died early March 29. A police officer responding to a call of shots fired chased Adam down an alley and shot him after ordering him to stop and to "drop it" — an incident recorded on body camera and security videos.

Foxx's office also confirmed that she told staff members Wednesday morning that First Assistant State's Attorney Jennifer Coleman had resigned. It declined to comment further because it is a personnel matter. Coleman, a veteran prosecutor who was promoted in December, was Foxx's top adviser on day-to-day legal operations.

"The tragedy of the death of 13-year old boy has been clouded by the confusion and frustration my office has caused and for this I apologize," Foxx said in a statement. "It's not lost on me that our community is grieving and I want to assure Adam's family and the public that my office is working diligently to investigate his death."

The state's attorney's office was criticized when it was revealed that prosecutors' initial description of events implied that Adam was holding a gun when he was shot. In an April 10 bond hearing for Ruben Roman, 21, who was with Adam when he was shot, Assistant State's Attorney James Murphy appeared to suggest to the court that Adam was armed when he was shot.

"The officer tells [Adam] to drop it as [Adam] turns towards the officer. [Adam] has a gun in his right hand," Murphy said, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. "The officer fires one shot at [Adam], striking him in the chest. The gun that [Adam] was holding landed against the fence a few feet away."

The Toledo family insists that Adam did not have a gun when the officer fired the fatal shot.

"Adam, during his last second of life, did not have a gun in his hand. The officer screamed at him, 'Show me your hands.' Adam complied, turned around. His hands were empty when he was shot in the chest at the hands of the officer. He did not have a gun in his hand," Adeena Weiss Ortiz, an attorney for the Toledo family, said in April after police videos were released.

Roman was arrested at the scene on misdemeanor charges of resisting or obstructing a peace officer and was later charged with child endangerment, aggravated unlawful use of a weapon and reckless discharge of a firearm. He remains free on bond, NBC Chicago reported.

Based on the video from the shooting officer, identified by Chicago police as Eric Stillman, it was not clear whether Adam was holding a gun when he was being chased down the alley. An attorney for Stillman said in a statement that he had no choice but to shoot because he "had no place to take cover," adding that "the gun was being orientate[d] in his direction and he was left with no other option." Stillman has been placed on administrative leave.

Foxx's office said April 15 that Murphy had "failed to fully inform himself before speaking in court." The same day, the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, a police oversight board, released raw body camera videos from the shooting after weeks of public outcry.

Also on the same day, Chicago police released their own edited timeline video, which showed a firearm lying on the ground at the scene and featured freeze frames from Stillman's bodycam video, which police said showed Adam holding a gun milliseconds before he was shot.

Video from a nearby surveillance camera released by the police accountability office that captured the shooting shows Adam pausing by a gap in a wooden fence before facing the approaching officer, who quickly fires his weapon. The police timeline video shows a gun on the ground near the gap in the fence.

Community groups expressed outrage, saying it was apparent that Adam was complying with the officer's orders and disputing the police narrative that there had been an "armed confrontation."

Murphy was placed on leave during the internal investigation and has since returned, Foxx said. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The investigation by Foxx's office "revealed a breakdown of communication in how information was shared, which ultimately did not get elevated to State's Attorney Foxx before, nor in a timely manner following, the bond court hearing," and the attorney "did not intend to give the impression that Adam Toledo was holding a gun when shot."

"The language the attorney used in court was inartful," the review said.

Foxx's office said that, as a result of the investigation, attorneys will undergo training to present facts in court and that office policies and procedures will be added to ensure that "checks and balances" operate as intended.

Foxx told the Sun-Times last month that her office's failures had affected morale.

"This is about the expectation of law enforcement to be forthright and transparent," she said. "There is no sacrificial lamb here. This is about making sure that we get it right, and when we don't get it right, owning it, doing what we need to do to make sure that it doesn't happen again."