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A man walks through Millennium Park as he protests during a rally on April 15, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. The rally was held in protest of the killing of 13-year-old Adam Toledo by a Chicago police officer on March 29th. The video of the fatal shooting was released on Thursday to the general public by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability. (Photo: Kamil Krzaczynski/Getty Images)

'Entire System Is to Blame': Outrage Builds After Police Union Leader Says Officer Killing of Unarmed Teen Was 'Heroic'

"Ending this isn't just about consequences for who pulls the trigger. It's about admitting to and confronting an entire system that exists to protect, defend, and cover up state violence." 

Julia Conley

Outrage over the police killing of 13-year-old Adam Toledo in Chicago was compounded overnight and into Friday after the president of the city's police union claimed the shooting was "100% justified" and that the officer's actions were "heroic."

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) was among the critics who responded to Chicago Police Union head John Catanzara's remarks by calling for "systemic" changes to policing to end the killing of civilians.

"The problem is systemic and it requires systemic solutions," tweeted the congresswoman.

On CNN's "Cuomo Prime Time" Thursday night, Catanzara told host Chris Cuomo that the officer deserved praised for shooting the 7th grader only one time. Body camera footage released Thursday showed Toledo with both arms raised when he was fatally shot with a single bullet by Officer E. Stillman. 

"He could have been shot multiple times but the officer assessed in a split second," said Catanzara, who earlier this year defended the mob that violently stormed the Capitol building, saying the group caused "very little destruction of property." 

"Unfortunately, he already committed to the first shot, justifiably so," he added. 

In the footage from the March 29 killing, Toledo is seen being chased down an alley by Stillman. Despite Catanzara's claim that Toledo was armed, no gun is visible in his hand after the officer orders him to stop and he puts his hands up.

Scott Roberts, senior director of criminal justice campaigns at Color of Change, said in a statement that the killing of Toledo offers only the latest evidence that "Chicago city leadership has failed to meet the moment because of their lack of transparency and knee-jerk reaction to defend the Chicago Police Department."

"This is reminiscent of the handling of the 2014 shooting of Laquan McDonald," Roberts said. "The issue with racist police violence however, is bigger than one officer. The entire system is to blame. And while police departments continue to adopt piecemeal reforms that have failed to address police violence or create any accountability, we need real, systemic change if we ever expect it to end. Additional training, body-worn cameras, and civilian oversight are not enough to protect Black and Brown lives. We need to divest from police, invest in our communities, and fundamentally reimagine public safety in America."

Journalist Mehdi Hasan condemned Catanzara's justification of the killing, calling the comments "cold-blooded."

Catanzara's "blind" defense of the officer's actions "just shows how incredibly broken our system of policing is," tweeted journalist Justin Kanew.

"Ending this isn't just about consequences for who pulls the trigger," tweeted Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). "It's about admitting to and confronting an entire system that exists to protect, defend, and cover up state violence." 

Omar noted on Twitter that previous responses to the killings of Black and Latinx Americans by police officers—such as the funding of body cameras and increased training—have clearly not led to a decrease in violence against civilians.

"All that funding and reform hasn't stopped the police from killing people or made our communities safer," tweeted Omar. 


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