Adam Toledo would have celebrated his 14th birthday on Wednesday.
But tomorrow, his family will stand in front of a mural of Adam, who was fatally shot by a white Chicago police officer in the early hours of March 29 on the city’s West Side, to announce the creation of Adam’s Place, a rural sanctuary for at-risk youth.
“A year ago, his family celebrated with pizza and cake,” Adeena Weiss Ortiz and Joel Hirschhorn, lawyers for the Toledo family, said in a statement Tuesday. “This year, as they struggle with their grief, Adam’s parents and siblings are dedicating themselves to helping other families prevent the excruciating sorrow that comes from the loss of a child.”
Videos released last month by Chicago’s civilian police watchdog agency revealed 34-year-old officer Eric Stillman was responding to reports of shots fired in the Little Village neighborhood when he encountered Adam and chased him down an alley. According to the videos, Adam tossed a gun behind a fence before turning to face Stillman with his hands up. Stillman fired in less than a second.
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“Adam was a loving son and a good boy, who had never been in trouble with the police. Despite his parents’ best efforts, he snuck out of the house the night he died, lured by older youth and the thrill of the street,” the lawyers said. “Even as the Toledo family seeks justice for Adam, they also know that many families in their community and elsewhere struggle to keep their own children out of harm’s way.”
Adam’s Place will provide a “safe and nurturing haven” in a rural setting where at-risk youth ages 10 to 14 from Chicago and other Midwestern cities can “develop skills, values, and self-worth by learning to care for the natural world, others, and themselves, away from the dangers of urban streets,” the lawyers said.
Attorneys said Adam’s Place, Inc. has been registered in Illinois as a not-for-profit corporation and is in the process of applying for status as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. The corporation was fundraising and has farmland under contract within a three-and-a-half hour drive from Chicago.
The lawyers said the family plans to model the sanctuary after the Boys Farm in Newberry, South Carolina, a nonprofit that provides foster care services for boys experiencing difficult family situations. Members of the Toledo family will serve on the board of directors, the lawyers said.
“As those of us who live in Little Village and other Chicago neighborhoods know, the needs are great. But the hearts here are big,” Betty Toledo said in a statement. “We have seen grace in the peaceful protests, the colorful murals, the flowers and candles, and especially in the love and compassion shown to us by our friends, neighbors, and strangers across the country, many of whom have known the pain of losing a child.”
Adam’s killing nearly two months ago prompted outrage in Chicago and in cities across the country. The incident spurred Mayor Lori Lightfoot to call for changes to the police department’s foot pursuit policy, and thousands of people rallied on the city’s West Side to demand justice for Adam and his family.
In mid-April, a group of Latino lawyers called for the Department of Justice to investigate the “circumstances that led to and resulted” in Adam’s death. The group also pushed for stronger policies regarding foot pursuit and car chases, clearer training guidelines, and more guidelines on police interactions with children.
“Faith and trust in the police department are in short supply in the Latino community,” Pilsen Law Center founder Arturo Jáuregui said at a news conference. “An objective investigation conducted by the Justice Department would send a message to our community that this time is different.”
Stillman, the officer who shot Adam, has not returned to regular field duties and was “going through the post-discharge administrative procedures process,” the Chicago Police Department said Tuesday. That process includes at least 30 days of administrative duties and an eight-hour critical incident overview training.
The city’s civilian police oversight agency was still investigating the incident.