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‘We must say his name’: Illinois representatives reflect on Adam Toledo’s death

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Videos of the police shooting of a Chicago teenager have been public for over 24 hours, leading many people to think about the state of policing and criminal justice in Illinois.

On Friday, members of the Illinois House paused to reflect on Adam Toledo’s death. House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch (D-Hillside) wanted members to recognize that the 7th grader should still be alive today. Representatives grieved the loss of the 13-year-old from Little Village. They also discussed the use of force police have used to kill too many.

Welch said everyone in the chamber could imagine the pain the Toledo family is going through. He added that Adam was the Toledo family’s baby boy, and this happened under the watch of the city, community, and leaders.

“We must say his name – Adam Toledo – who exited the world far too soon in a tragic unnecessary police shooting,” Welch said.

Police were responding to a “shots fired” call and had been chasing after Toledo, who had a gun. He clearly followed the officer’s orders to stop and show his hands. Toledo had tossed the gun and turned, but he dropped to the ground following a fatal shot to his chest less than a second later.

“If you put your hands up, they shoot. If you put your hands down, they shoot,” stressed Rep. Edgar Gonzalez Jr. (D-Chicago). “If you walk and run, you hide, you sleep, you do exactly as they say, they still shoot.”

Gonzalez lives four blocks away from the scene. The 24-year-old said this murder is another example of the need for increased accountability and transparency.

“Young people like Adam, like me – like the many that fill our streets, in our parks, in our schools – we all deserve the right to live, to breathe, and to be actively included in our society,” Gonzalez said.

Republicans say regardless of political beliefs, people should understand this situation is heart-wrenching and terrible for any family. Rep. Tim Butler (R-Springfield) feels the shooting underscores why lawmakers need to continue talking about these issues.

“There’s a lot of us who are very supportive of police and want to make sure that our communities are safe,” Butler said. “But, we also understand that there’s probably some reforms that need to be made as well. I think that’s the balance that we have to find as legislators.”

Rep. Lakesia Collins (D-Chicago) said she supports police as well. However, she says there are still bad actors hiding behind the badge. Collins is a mother of three boys who and explained the trauma lives on with new names going into hashtags online. She said through tears that families continue to bury loved ones too soon.

“We have to change the narrative so that we don’t have Adam Toledos, Breonna Taylors, Sandra Blands, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, Rodney Mann, Rekia Boyd. We have to put an end to it, we have to,” Collins emphasized.

Speaker Welch said grief counselors will be available at the Capitol next week because this moment is traumatizing for everyone.

“But it’s more than just this moment,” Welch added. “It’s the pervasive systemic racism, increased hate towards people of color, the lack of justice, and disparities magnified throughout this pandemic. So now it’s time that we try to heal. We must begin to heal. And we’re going to begin to heal together.”

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Mike Miletich

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