CHICAGO — Chicago’s top prosecutor apologized Wednesday because an attorney who works under her implied in court that 13-year-old Adam Toledo was holding a gun when a police officer fatally shot him, and she acknowledged that neither she nor anyone in her office tried to clear up the matter until right before video was released showing that wasn’t actually the case.
The Cook County state’s attorney’s office came under fire after the April 15 release of body camera video showing that Toledo either dropped or tossed the gun less than a second before Officer Eric Stillman shot and killed him early on March 29. Days earlier, a prosecutor from that office implied during a hearing for the 21-year-old man who was with Toledo that morning, Ruben Roman, that Toledo was holding a gun when Stillman shot him.
“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,” Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx said in a statement announcing the findings of an internal review of her underling’s erroneous statement in court.
During Roman’s April 10 hearing and in a document presented to the court concerning the charges against him — gun possession, reckless discharge and child endangerment — Assistant State’s Attorney James Murphy didn’t specifically say that Toledo was holding a gun when he was shot, but he clearly implied it.
“(Toledo) has a gun in his right hand,” Murphy told the judge. “The officer fired one shot … striking him in the chest. The gun that the victim was holding landed against the fence a few feet away.”
After the release of video showing that Toledo wasn’t holding a gun when he was shot, Murphy was placed on leave and Foxx’s office launched an internal review of what happened. In her news release, Foxx said Murphy had been reinstated and that it was determined that he “did not intend to give the impression that Adam Toledo was holding a gun when shot.”
She said the review placed the blame on a “breakdown in communication” at the top levels of her office. Although Foxx’s news release didn’t go into detail about that breakdown, prosecutors in her office were notified by email shortly before the review’s findings were announced that her second-in-command, Jennifer Coleman, had resigned, the Chicago Tribune reported.
The release didn’t mention Coleman’s resignation and Foxx declined to discuss personnel matters during an interview with the Tribune. But she explained to the newspaper that her first assistant was the only person in her office who had detailed knowledge of both the investigation into whether to charge Roman and a separate, walled-off investigation into the police shooting of Toledo.
Foxx previously acknowledged that she didn’t view the video until after Ruben’s hearing, despite the Toledo killing already getting heavy media attention because of his age and other factors. It wasn’t until several days after that and less than an hour before the video was released that Foxx’s office issued a statement saying that Murphy hadn’t been “fully informed” before he spoke during Ruben’s hearing and that he shouldn’t have left room for people to infer that Toledo was still holding a gun when he was shot.
This is not the first time Foxx has been criticized for her handling of a high-profile case. In early 2019, she came under fire when her office abruptly and without explanation dismissed charges against actor Jussie Smollett that alleged the actor staged a racist, anti-gay attack on himself. Later, Smollett was charged again by a special prosecutor, who also concluded that although Foxx and her office did nothing criminal, they did abuse their discretion and made false statements about the case.
Foxx was subsequently re-elected to a second term in November.