Lawyers for man with Adam Toledo when he was shot by police say it’s unclear who fired gun bringing officers to scene

Lawyers on Thursday argued Adam Toledo — not Ruben Roman — may have fired a gun in the Little Village before the 13-year-old Toledo was shot and killed by a Chicago police officer, roiling the city and bringing increased attention to how the department handles foot pursuits.

Prosecutors have contended that before Toledo was killed by Officer Eric Stillman, Roman, 23, fired a gun at a passing car in the 2400 block of South Sawyer Avenue, triggering ShotSpotter detection and calling police to the intersection.

But Roman’s public defender Karin Talwar argued evidence presented during her client’s bench trial this week did not make it clear who actually fired the gun that led to the automated alert.

“Even in light of all of this evidence, it is not enough to show Ruben Roman actually possessed or fired a weapon,” Talwar said. “There is evidence of a possible other theory.”

Chicago police officers detain Ruben Roman, 21, on March 29, 2021, who was identified by Cook County prosecutors as the man who fired the shots that attracted police to the area in the moments before Adam Toledo was shot.
An image from the body camera of Officer Eric Stillman, who has his gun drawn, shows him chasing Adam Toledo in an alley.

The attorneys delivered closing arguments Thursday afternoon at the Leighton Criminal Court building after testimony began a day earlier. Roman is charged with three felony counts of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon and one felony count of recklessly discharging a firearm, charges that are not related to Toledo’s death but rather stem from his alleged actions while he was with the teen just before the shooting.

Roman is on trial before Cook County Judge Charles Burns, who said he will render a decision Friday. Burns heard from several witnesses Wednesday, including the partner of Chicago police Officer Eric Stillman, who fatally shot Toledo.

Prosecutors argued Roman could be seen on surveillance video firing a gun at a passing car. Later, prosecutors said, gloves Roman dropped tested positive for gunshot residue.

Roman’s public defenders maintained no direct evidence conclusively points the finger at Roman. They told the judge no witnesses saw Roman with a gun, nor wearing the gloves.

In her closing argument, Talwar said surveillance video put forward as evidence did not clearly show faces, or even the ethnicity, gender or other characteristics of those pictured.

Assistant State’s Attorney John Henning countered that videos from a nearby church and school distinguish Roman from Toledo by their clothing, with Roman in a beige jacket and Toledo in a darker outfit. Henning said Roman, in the beige jacket, is captured on video firing shots.

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Later, body-camera video and testimony from officers made it clear that Roman was the individual in the beige jacket, he said.

“The defense wants to say that circumstantial evidence isn’t evidence, but it is,” Henning said. “The defendant is the person that you see in the church video and the school video.”

On Wednesday, Officer Corina Gallegos took the stand and described how she and Stillman responded to the corner of 24th Street and Sawyer Avenue in Little Village due to the ShotSpotter alert for gunfire. The two drove until they spotted Roman and Toledo in an alley.

Gallegos said she handcuffed Roman while Stillman pursued Toledo before he fatally shot the teen.

Toledo’s death spurred protests and anger in the community and led to increased scrutiny of the police department’s policies governing when and how officers should engage in foot chases. Video released after the shooting showed Toledo tossed a gun behind a fence before turning and raising his hands.

When Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx announced that her office would not charge Stillman in the death, she said the actions happened “almost simultaneously.”

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