13-Year-Old Adam Toledo

And the State of Policing

Photo by news.wttw.com

He was a kid.

That was the only image that got stuck in my head as I watched the footage of Adam Toledo shot by a Police Officer in Chicago. I did not think about the gun that Adam Toledo dropped after the officer asked him to do so. I did not remember Adam raising his hands after the officer asked him to do so. The whole world got slightly blurred as the footage ended. I played it again one more time, as I could not believe what I just saw. And when it played again, the only question that lingered in my head was: How old is Adam?

Reports said Adam was 13 years old. Just a year younger than my sister’s son. I have no idea why my head drifted to my nephew, but it did. A 13-year-old seventh-grader was shot dead by a police officer after he complied with the officer’s instructions.

My head was racing to find out something. Anything I could latch on, to support the officer. I grew up in an environment that taught me to respect the Police for their service. I never saw them as professionals; I saw them as saviors. As a kid, police cars and firetrucks were my go-to toys. They were always a part of my life. I grew up respecting the Police, and there are parts in my brain that I still know pines for them.

But when I saw the Chicago police officer’s attorney say, “What is amazing and disheartening is that very few have asked about the welfare of the officer,” I just wanted to scream into the screen.

Ten years ago, I would have figured out a way to do it. Not anymore.
Blame it on the six years of college or the two degrees behind my name. Blame it on my reading.

Blame it on the fact that just a week ago, you asked me to believe that a 26-year veteran of the department accidentally swapped a bright-colored lightweight Taser with a dark-colored heavier Glock and shot a 20-year-old. Ten years ago, I did not know that the Glocks have a trigger safety and Police officers carry their gun on one side of the body and taser on the other.

Photo by us.glock.com

I did my best to agree with the Police's point of view, but the more I dug, the darker the hole became.

I did my best to make up my own story when I saw Officer Joe Gutierrez tell Lieutenant Nazario, “What’s going on is you’re fixing to ride the lightning, son.” A man in army fatigues gets pulled over because of license plates. Two officers draw their guns out. The Lieutenant says he is afraid, and officer Gutierrez nods in agreement, “You should be.”

Photo by bigworldtale.com

Ten years ago, I would not have understood what “ride the lightning” meant, but now I know that it means execution in the electric chair. Then I tried to pass the story as just another arrogant officer. But as I kept digging, I learned the officers told the Lieutenant that they will let him go “if he remained quiet about the incident, but that he would face additional charges if he complained.”

“He should have complied” is the often-repeated sentence I used in the past to side with the Police. Adam Toledo complied. He dropped the gun and raised his hands as ordered. Then he was shot.

How do you expect me to think about the officer and his mental state when he forgot to comply with his training manual?

How do you expect me to respect an officer who tells an army man that he is fixing to ride the lightning while pointing a gun at him?

How do you expect me to respect the department that had the time to organize and equip a seven-man search party but did not even know that Breanna Taylor had broken up with the man that they were after?

I would love to give all my respect and care to their professionalism, but they must help me here. I am desperate for some evidence. Blaming the victims isn’t going to cut it anymore.

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