An official in the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office resigned after an investigation into in-court statements made by a prosecutor suggesting 13-year-old Adam Toledo had a gun when he was killed by Chicago police in March.
Staff were informed Wednesday that First Assistant State’s Attorney Jennifer Coleman resigned, spokeswoman Sarah Sinovic confirmed in an email to USA TODAY. The resignation comes after a “breakdown of communication” that led to misleading statements being made in court in early April, according to a report released Wednesday.
In the report, the office said it had concluded its investigation and found comments made by Assistant State’s Attorney James Murphy, though “inartful,” were not intended to imply Adam had a gun.
Murphy was providing facts to support charges against 21-year-old Ruben Roman, who was with Adam when he was shot March 29, during an April 10 bond hearing and only meant to include a “limited description” of what led to Adam’s death rather than fully describe the police shooting itself, according to the report.
An investigation “revealed a breakdown of communication in how information was shared” within the office, and “proper steps were not taken to ensure appropriate language was used,” according to the report.
Murphy’s work was not reviewed before the hearing – even though the information presented in court did not align with information provided to the office – and he was not given “sufficient guidance” about what information should have been included in his descriptions, according to the report.
Murphy was placed on leave in April but has since returned to his assignment, the state’s attorney’s office said in a statement.
“The officer tells (Adam) to drop it as (Adam) turns towards the officer. (Adam) has a gun in his right hand,” Murphy said during the hearing, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. “The officer fires one shot at (Adam), striking him in the chest. The gun that (Adam) was holding landed against the fence a few feet away.”
Body camera footage released in April contradicted Murphy’s claim, showing Adam’s hands empty in the air when he was shot. The revelation sparked outrage and protests across the city.
“The investigation revealed that the lack of recognition of the critical and urgent nature of this situation hindered the office’s ability to react quickly to understand the circumstances that led to the statements made in court,” according to the report.
The office will further train attorneys regarding presenting facts in court and implement policies ensuring “checks and balances,” according to the report, which did not name Murphy.
“The tragedy of the death of (a) 13-year old boy has been clouded by the confusion and frustration my office has caused and for this I apologize,” State’s Attorney Kim Foxx said in a statement Wednesday. “It’s not lost on me that our community is grieving and I want to assure Adam’s family and the public that my office is working diligently to investigate his death.”
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An illustrated view looking northeast at the spot where 13-year-old Adam Toledo was shot and killed by Chicago Police on March 29. (Photo: USA TODAY)
After the release of body camera footage, many Chicagoans called attention to the city’s changing narrative of what happened that night, including statements made by Murphy.
Just hours after the shooting, police spokesman Tom Ahern called the incident an “armed confrontation” in a tweet on March 29 and shared a photo of a gun recovered from the scene.
At a news conference April 5, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said, “We will find the person who put the gun in Adam’s hand.”
Hours after the news conference, Adam’s family said in a statement that they were “concerned by presumptions, implications, and statements made today that are not supported by the facts made public so far.”
The narrative began to change by April 15 when Lightfoot called Adam “a child who was in contact with an adult who had a gun.” Asked whether Adam shot at an officer, she said, “I’ve seen no evidence whatsoever that Adam Toledo shot at the police.”
Chicago’s Civilian Office of Police Accountability released body camera footage of the shooting that showed Adam running away from an officer down an alley. He slowed by a fence, threw what looked like a gun behind the fence, and turned toward the officer with his hands up. The officer fired his weapon less than a second after Adam turned around to face him with his hands raised.
After the footage was released, the City Council’s Latino Caucus said in a statement that “the body camera footage shows that Adam Toledo was an unarmed child with his hands up when he was shot by a Chicago police officer.”
Contributing: Grace Hauck, USA TODAY
Contact News Now Reporter Christine Fernando at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter at @christinetfern.
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