Chicago prosecutor, James Murphy, has been placed on leave Saturday after he noted in court hearing this month that Adam Toledo, 13, had a gun in his possession. The statement was made at the bond hearing for Ruben Roman, 21, who was with Toledo on the night that he died. The action was taken despite the position of the Chicago police that Toledo was armed until a fraction of a second before the shooting — a view also echoed by local media after reviewing the videotape. However, various politicians like Andrew Yang have insisted that this was the shooting of “an unarmed child” by police. The error may prove be the use of the word “has” in a court statement. The question is whether this type of action was warranted for a prosecutor who was trying to keep a dangerous individual in jail.
The shooting occurred in a stronghold of the Latin Kings, a notoriously violent gang in Chicago. Many of us who grew up in Chicago are familiar with the Latin Kings, which is a huge criminal organization that often uses children to hold guns since they are subject to lower possible criminal penalties. Roman is facing felony charges of reckless discharge of a firearm and unlawful use of a weapon by a felon as well as child endangerment and violating probation,
This incident occurred around 3 a.m., when two Chicago police officers confronted the 13-year-old and Roman while investigating gunshots in Little Village. According to prosecutors, Roman had fired a gun at a passing car. Roman has been rumored to be a member of the Latin Kings. The Chicago Police Union president also alleged that Toledo was a known member of the Latin Kings.
It appears that Murphy was opposing the bond for Roman who was accused of shooting at a passing car and alleged to be a member of a violent gang. He noted that Toledo had a gun. As local media has noted, that is supported by the videotape which shows what appears to be a gun in his hand less than two seconds before the shots are fired. A gun was found near Toledo and police say that he tossed the gun just as he was turning toward police.
The line in dispute in the proffer may be this: “The officer tells [Toledo] to drop it as [Toledo] turns towards the officer. [Toledo] has a gun in his right hand.” One could reasonably object that the line seems to say that Toledo had the gun in his hand at the time of the shooting. Murphy would likely say that the preceding line makes clear that it is a reference to having a gun “as [Toledo] turns towards the officer.” According to police, he “has” a gun in his hand a fraction of a second before turning toward the officer. The question is whether such a difference warrants a public correction rather than a public suspension.
Cook County State’s Attorney Kimberly M. Foxx’s office announced that Murphy was suspended with pay because he did not “fully inform himself” before testifying. Foxx had a long and controversial record in the city, particularly in her role in the Jussie Smollett scandal.
Toledo is clearly not armed at the time he is shot. He appears to have tossed the weapon within a couple seconds of the shooting by Chicago Police Officer Eric Stillman. That raises the question of whether the officer was still justified in using lethal force. However, that would not mean that Toledo was unarmed in the encounter.
Murphy noted that surveillance video showed Roman shooting at the passing car with Toledo next to him. He said that Roman and Toledo then ducked into an alley, where officers located them. Despite presuming Roman to be armed, Stillman tackled Roman to the ground. As another officer puts Roman into custody, Stillman then went after Toledo. Murphy reportedly noted that the gloves worn by Roman tested positive for gunshot residue and seven shell casings recovered by officers matched the handgun Roman is previously seen using. He then reportedly added that the gun appears to be the same that Toledo was carrying.
The office may also have objected to that last part if there has been no confirmation that it was the same gun or even fingerprint evidence tying Toledo to the gun found near him. The picture of the gun in the hand of Toledo does appear to be similar to the one found near him after the shooting. Notably, this should be an issue that is already largely resolved by the police. Here are the images:
I do not know why the District Attorney would not confirm whether the gun is the same as the one used in the shooting and whether there are any fingerprints on the weapon.
I can understand the need for Foxx to keep her prosecutors from making inaccurate or unsupported statements in a case that has caused rioting in the Chicago. However, I am uneasy about the actions taken against an attorney for a statement that could have been clarified in both court and in public. I am also concerned with the lack of specifically on the error and the failure to confirm the basic facts on the gun forensics.