Mayor Lori Lightfoot of Chicago issued an emotional appeal for calm on Thursday as officials prepared to release video of a police officer fatally shooting a 13-year-old boy.
“We must proceed with deep empathy and calm and importantly, peace,” Ms. Lightfoot said, her voice breaking as she talked about the pain of losing a child to gun violence. The mayor, who had watched what she said were several videos, called the experience “excruciating.”
“No family should ever have a video broadcast widely of their child’s last moments, much less be placed in the terrible situation of losing their child in the first place,” she said.
Footage from a Chicago Police officer’s body camera was expected to be released later on Thursday amid mounting tension nationally over police misconduct and racism. The video’s release in Chicago comes as the trial of Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer accused of murdering George Floyd, is underway in Minneapolis and as another Minnesota officer, Kimberly A. Potter, was charged in the death on Sunday of Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old motorist.
In Chicago, the shooting involved one of the youngest people fatally shot by the police in Illinois in years: Adam Toledo, 13, was shot by the police last month in Little Village, a predominantly Latino neighborhood on the city’s West Side. According to law enforcement authorities, Adam was running down an alley with a gun in his hand and ignored an officer’s command to stop and drop the gun.
During a news conference in Chicago, Mayor Lightfoot, flanked by community activists who echoed her appeal for calm, declined to say whether the boy was holding a gun, saying that people should judge for themselves after watching the video.
“I see no evidence whatsoever that Adam Toledo shot at police,” the mayor said. She noted that a slowed-down version of the tape would be released, with the approval of the family, because the raw footage was extremely jumpy and hard to follow.
Ms. Lightfoot urged residents to wait to react until the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, or COPA, the independent agency that investigates encounters with the department, had finished its work. She acknowledged that Chicago residents had a long history of grappling with police misconduct, causing “fear and pain” in the city, which the difficult year of the pandemic had only compounded.
COPA initially resisted releasing the video footage of the shooting that took place on March 29, citing the age of the boy. Faced with days of public pressure, officials reversed themselves and announced they would release it.
Adam’s family was permitted to view the video privately on Tuesday night. Afterward, the family issued a statement calling the experience “extremely difficult and heartbreaking for everyone present.”
Even before the video was to be released, the boy’s killing had set off protests and severe criticism of the Chicago Police Department.
After the shooting, Mayor Lightfoot called on the Police Department to create a policy for foot pursuits by officers.
She also said in a series of posts on Twitter that “we must release any relevant videos as soon as possible,” adding that “transparency and speed are crucial” in such a sensitive investigation. In December, Ms. Lightfoot apologized after criticism when her administration attempted to block the airing of body-camera footage from a botched police raid.
Details of the events that led to the shooting of the 13-year-old have only begun to come to light. Ruben Roman, a 21-year-old who the authorities said was with Adam at the time of the shooting, appeared in a Cook County courtroom on Saturday. He was charged with felony reckless discharge, unlawful use of a weapon and child endangerment, and held on a $150,000 bond.
Prosecutors described the incident in detail for the first time on Saturday. According to their account, video captures Mr. Roman and Adam walking together down a street on the West Side around 2:30 a.m. on March 29. Mr. Roman, holding a gun, appears to fire several shots at an unknown target.
The Chicago police said that two officers who responded to reports of gunfire in the Little Village neighborhood saw two people in an alley and started chasing them. One officer fatally shot Adam, prosecutors said, after he turned toward the officer while holding a gun.
His mother later said that she thought Adam, a seventh-grader at Gary Elementary School, was safely in his room at the time. He had been missing for several days, she said, but had come home and gone into the room that he shared with his brother.
The shooting tapped into a tide of anguish and frustration in Chicago neighborhoods that have been gripped by gun violence. Chicago, like other American cities, has struggled to stem a surge in shootings during the coronavirus pandemic. In the first quarter of 2021, there were 131 homicides, the most violent start to a year since 2017.
That follows a particularly violent 2020, with almost 800 murders, after 492 in 2019, according to Chicago police records. The city experienced 567 murders in 2018 and 658 in 2017. As murders climbed last summer, children were often caught in the crossfire; in one two-week period, nine children were killed.
Mitch Smith and Julie Bosman contributed reporting.