Police Brutality and the Murder of Adam Toledo

The United States has been traumatized by a long history of police violence and brutality against non-European descendants for decades. We need to remember that the country’s creation is linked to Slave Patrols that exerted control over enslaved Africans and Native Americans for centuries. In the colonial period, a poor white man often did not have the wealth to enslave others but joined into a white supremacist through service on Slave Patrols.  Despite abolishing slavery over 160 years ago, the legacy and impacts are still with us today and have only evolved into other forms of terror against non-white people. 

On March 29, Adam Toledo, a 13-year-old seventh-grader at Gary Elementary School who lived in Chicago’s Little Village, became one of the youngest people killed on the city’s West Side.  A Chicago Police officer killed Adam while he was running away. Adam was not only Latino; but he was a native American descendant who once again is a victim of police brutality. 

The officer repeatedly shouts at Toledo on the video from the body camera, “Police! Stop! Stop right now! Hands! Hands! Show me your hands!”. Adam Toledo – turns around and raises his hands. The white police officer fires his weapon and murders Adam – 20 seconds after exiting his squad car.

Officer Eric Stillman, 34 years old, fired the fatal shot officer, heard on the body camera asking for an ambulance. The video also shows the officer straightening Toledo’s legs, raising his shirt to start searching for a gun. But why looking for a gun, he claims later was in Adam’s hands?

Adam’s killing reflects Native American’s reality and visibilize the truth that in the “Latin community,” the browner skin and native descendants are excluded and are more likely than Euro-Americans to experience police-related shootings and violence. Just last year, Andres Guardado, 18, died after being shot five times in the back by law enforcement in California; Carlos Ingram Lopez, 27, died in police custody in Tucson.

Demonstrations across the US denounce police brutality and demand that the police budgets are diverted to community programs that aid the community. “We don’t need angry officers. We need social workers,” is the request from communities tired of state-sanctioned violence.  Police officers receive military training and equipment to respond to a war situation and not secure and protect the communities in which we live.

The United States has a problem of racism and white superiority complex. Many white church leaders and politicians claim, “This is not who we are;” whenever there is a police shooting or an act of white supremacy. Unfortunately, police brutality is an accurate reflection of who we are as a country.

These heinous murders are the outcome of a long history of policing, controlling, and destroying the bodies and lives of African and Native American descendants. Until we hold all individuals who murder others accountable, we will never be able to change the culture of hate in the country.

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Yenny Delgado

Yenny Delgado (she/her/ Ella) Psychologist and theologian. She writes about the intersections between ethnicity, politics, faith, and resistance. Twitter @Publicayenny