The Chicago Tribune has been criticized for publishing an opinion piece which suggests that the facts need to come out about the police shooting of a 13-year-old Black boy before attempting to portray him as a “martyr.”
Adam Toledo was shot and killed by a Chicago Police officer in the early hours of March 29 after being chased into an alley. According to a police statement, the department’s ShotSpotter technology detected multiple shots being fired in the 2300 block of S. Sawyer at around 2:36 a.m.
When officers arrived at the scene, they found Adam with another male. Police said one of the males was armed and fled before being shot in the chest during an “armed confrontation.” The incident was captured on body cam footage, according to the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, but the footage hasn’t been made public.
On April 6, an opinion piece by Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn described how it is “too early to say with confidence” what happened on the night of the shooting and that too much focus has been on Adam’s age.
Zorn noted how during the outcry in the wake of the shooting that social media users described the boy as “a baby” while a Black Lives Matter Twitter account tweeted that “there is absolutely no … justification for murdering our children.”
In retort, Zorn said that while the facts still need to be gathered for the investigation, it is too early to “stop romanticizing and infantilizing” 13-year-olds.
Zorn then lists examples of other teenagers who have been charged with murder over the past several months as proof that “13-year-olds aren’t inherently angelic.”
“What do these news stories say about Adam Toledo? Nothing. They simply suggest that using his age as shorthand for innocence and harmlessness in this situation generates heat but sheds no light,” Zorn wrote.
“He was not a ‘baby.’ A 13-year-old pointing a gun, if that’s what he did, is as dangerous as a 23 or 33-year-old, maybe even more dangerous given what we know about the lack of judgment.”
Zorn goes on to state that no matter what actually occurred that night, the city of Chicago still should provide better support for young, disadvantaged people.
The article was heavily criticized online, with social media users pointing out how people only attempt to justify police shooting children when the victim is Black.
Journalism professor Dr. Steven W. Thrasher said he will be canceling his subscription to the Tribune over the article.
“Yes, I do think there is no space in a newspaper for arguing for the murder of a child, and that it’s ‘never to early” to think they are worthy of murder,” he tweeted.
Comedian and actor David Cross added: “Please list all the 13 year olds who’ve murdered people thereby justifying killing any 13 year olds because 13 year olds aren’t inherently harmless please thank you.”
The Twitter account for socialist media outlet Left Voice wrote: “The Chicago Tribune is encouraging cops to kill 13 year olds. After all, as they put it ‘It’s never too early to stop pretending that 13-year-olds are inherently harmless.’ And by 13 year olds, they don’t mean white kids. They mean Black and Brown middle schoolers.”
Reporter Noah Berlatsky tweeted: “I am willing to just blanket state that there are no circumstances in which it is okay for police to murder a 13-year old.
“Also, it’s only ‘too early’ to know what happened because the corrupt, murderous conspiracy that is the police department won’t release the f*****g video.”
The Tribune and Zurn have been contacted for comment.
The officer involved in the shooting, who has not been named, was placed on desk duty for 30 days while the COPA investigates the incident.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot was one of those calling for the body cam footage of the shooting to be made public.
“As a mother of a 13-year-old myself, I can only imagine the incredible pain this boy’s parents are experiencing at this moment. My heart goes out to them,” she tweeted.
“While the investigation is ongoing it is critically important that COPA release relevant videos first to the family, and then to the public, as quickly as possible, with appropriate protections, given his age.
“Because his family and the public will undoubtedly have many questions, we must release any relevant videos as soon as possible. Recognizing that these are the most complex cases that COPA investigates, transparency and speed are crucial.”