The deaths of 13-year-old Adam Toledo in Chicago and 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant in Columbus, Ohio, are just two of more than 100 instances of people younger than 18 killed by police since 2015. And 23 of those killed, like Toledo, were under 15.
Bryant was fatally shot April 20 by Columbus police who were called to the scene about a fight and an attempted stabbing. Toledo was shot and killed by a Chicago police officer in the predominantly Latino neighborhood of Little Village on March 29. The body camera footage of each incident sparked local and national outrage.
“We are tired of having these trigger-happy police officers,” Baltazar Enriquez, president of the Little Village community, told ABC News in an interview.
At least 111 children recently have died by police use of force in the U.S. over the last six years, according to data compiled by the Washington Post. Some of the victims listed in the database are unidentified, without a listed age or name.
Following the deaths of Toledo and Bryant, local organizers are calling for change.
“The youth are scared of our officers, and it shouldn’t be like that,” Enriquez said. “Officers should show them that their safety is the No.1 priority and show them that they’re not there to kill them, but that they can call 911. Some of them are afraid of calling the police department.”
The data also shows that the young shooting victims are disproportionately Black and Hispanic — 37% and 25% of these fatalities, respectively, compared with 13% and 18% of the U.S. population.
Data from Mapping Police Violence, which tracks police killings of children back to 2013, counts up to 175 fatalities of people younger than 18, including three 1-year-olds.
The Chicago Police Department has been involved in at least four killings of people younger than 18 since 2015. The CPD didn’t respond to requests for comment from ABC News.
Michael Esposito, an assistant professor at Washington University, said over-policing of Black and brown communities criminalizes young people and their ethnicity.
“[Police] walk in with the assumption that they’re kind of dealing with quote-unquote criminals,” Esposito said. “When you have these people that are coming into neighborhoods that are hostile, then you’re going to produce these events.”
According to Esposito’s study, published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences, police violence is one of the leading causes of death for young men of all races and ethnicities. And about 52 of every 100,000 “men and boys” in the United States will be killed by police use of force.
Black women and men, as well as American Indian and Alaska Native women and men, were more likely than white counterparts to be killed by police, according to Esposito’s research, which also showed that Latino men are more likely to be killed by police than are white men.
Police violence, research has shown, can take a toll on the mental health of communities where these kinds of incidents happen. According to a study from the American Journal of Public Health, police brutality and killings can be associated with greater risks of distress and suicide attempts.
“The toxic effects of [police killings] don’t just happen to the individual — they do a lot more and go throughout communities and degrade the well-being of communities,” Esposito said.
The police officer who fatally shot the 16-year-old Bryant has been removed from patrol duty, and the shooting is being investigated by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation.
A spokeswoman for the Cook County State Attorney’s Office told ABC News that the investigation into Adam Toledo’s shooting is ongoing and declined to comment on whether officer Eric Stillman would be charged over the incident.
Stillman’s attorney, Tim Grace, sent a lengthy statement to ABC News defending the officer.
“The officer was faced with a life-threatening and deadly force situation,” Grace wrote. “All prior attempts to deescalate and gain compliance with all of the officers’ lawful orders had failed. The officer had no place to take cover or concealment, the gun was being orientated in his direction and he was left with no other option.”
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot called the footage of Toledo’s death “excruciating.”
“I know that we must do more to help children like Adam, before they end up in encounters like this one,” she said at a press conference. “And I refuse to stand idly by and allow our residents’ fate to be preordained simply by where they live, or the circumstances in which they’re born.”
Lightfoot has yet to introduce a plan to create an oversight committee for CPD despite promising to take action during her first 100 days in office. She’s been the mayor since 2019.
Activists like Enriquez are urging legislators across the country to do what they can to help end police killings of young people — and he said that begins with treating them like people.
“Instead of drawing your weapon and shouting ‘get down on the floor,’ talk to them like humans,” Enriquez said. “You automatically treat them like criminals.”
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