Bennett Capers, a law professor and the director of the Center on Race, Law and Justice at Fordham University, said that prosecutors were responding more frequently to public demand that police officers be charged with crimes in use-of-force incidents.
The trial of Derek Chauvin, the former police officer who was charged with murder in the death of George Floyd, is underway in Minneapolis. Earlier this week, another Minnesota police officer, Kimberly A. Potter, shot and killed Daunte Wright, 20, during a traffic stop; she was charged with second-degree manslaughter three days later. The officer who shot Laquan McDonald, Jason Van Dyke, was convicted of second-degree murder in 2018, the first police officer to be convicted of murder in an on-duty shooting in Chicago in nearly 50 years.
Charging Officer Stillman would be “difficult but not impossible” for prosecutors, Mr. Capers said.
“Obviously the police were saying that the kid had a weapon, and tossed the weapon, and all of this happened in a split second,” he said. “Are we really saying that an officer is entitled to shoot anybody who is holding a gun?”
A lawyer for Officer Stillman has said that the shooting, while tragic, was justified given the nature of the threat. “The police officer was put in this split-second situation where he has to make a decision,” the lawyer, Timothy Grace, said.
Representative Jesus Garcia of Illinois said that he had spent time in recent days thinking about his own experiences growing up in Little Village, raising a family there and working in violence prevention efforts in the neighborhood, which has been plagued by gang warfare.
“Adam and so many other kids have died because of gun violence and gang violence,” he said. “There’s no justice for Adam, because his life has been taken away. Nothing is going to bring him back. We’re all guilty, in a sense, as a community, as a society, for allowing his situation and not seeing the danger signals that this young man needed help.”
Adam’s family has kept a low profile, asking for privacy and urging protesters to remain peaceful.
“The Toledo family implores everyone who gathers in Adam’s name to remain peaceful, respectful and nonviolent and to continue to work constructively and tirelessly for reform,” the family said in a statement on Friday. “The family is forever grateful to the leaders and members of Chicago’s Latino community and the residents of Little Village for their support in this time of grief and mourning.”
Ellen Almer Durston and Kerry Lester contributed reporting.