Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, facing calls for her resignation after police fatally shot a 13-year-old, says rumors being spread about her are “homophobic, racist, and misogynistic.”
Lightfoot, a lesbian who is the first Black woman mayor of Chicago and the first out LGBTQ+ one, blasted the rumors in a tweet Sunday morning, saying sarcastically that she was tweeting from her “mansion in Sauganash,” a wealthy neighborhood on the city’s northwest side. Last year she had been rumored to be leaving the more diverse Logan Square neighborhood. There were unsubstantiated rumors circulating more recently about troubles in Lightfoot’s marriage to Amy Eshelman. It was also said that she was ready to resign as mayor, but she emphatically said that is not true.
Some Twitter users criticized Lightfoot as being quicker to respond to the rumors than to the death of 13-year-old Mexican-American Adam Toledo. Toledo was killed by police March 29 in an alley, and an officer’s body-camera video of the shooting was released last Thursday. It had been shown privately to Toledo’s mother, who asked that it not be released publicly, but city officials said they were legally bound to do so.
The video shows Toledo with his hands up and empty when an officer fires at him. He “appeared to have a gun in his hands just a moment earlier,” the Chicago Sun-Times reports. But Toledo doesn’t appear to be throwing anything away after the officer yells “Drop it,” and there is nothing in his upraised hands. Ruben Roman, a 21-year-old who was with him, had a gun and had fired “several shots at an unknown target,” according to The New York Times. Roman has been charged with felony reckless discharge, unlawful use of a weapon, and child endangerment.
Toledo is one of the youngest people killed by police in Illinois in many years. Members of his family are considering suing Officer Eric E. Stillman, who fired the shot. The Sun-Times didn’t name Stillman, as he is not officially charged with misconduct at this point, but the New York paper did.
The shooting of Toledo was not justified, said Adeena Weiss Ortiz, the attorney representing his family. “If you’re shooting an unarmed child with his arms in the air, it’s an assassination,” she told the Sun-Times. She said it’s not clear if the object he was holding earlier was a gun, and it isn’t relevant anyway, she said. “If he had a gun, he tossed it.”
The police had a different view. The officer “was 100 percent right,” John Catanzara, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, the Chicago police union, told the Sun-Times. “The offender still turned with a gun in his hand. This occurred in eight-tenths of a second.”
Colleen Connell, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, demanded a “complete and transparent” investigation of the matter, the paper reports. “The video released [Thursday] shows that police shot Adam Toledo even though his hands were raised in the air,” she said. “The people of Chicago deserve answers about the events surrounding this tragic interaction. … The anger and frustration expressed by many in viewing the video is understandable and cannot be ignored.”
Lightfoot, who was a member of police oversight boards before being elected mayor in 2019, came into office promising to reform police practices and reduce gun violence in the city. But she has been slow on reform measures, according to the Sun-Times, and violent crime has increased greatly. There have also been other shootings and various incidents of misconduct by police.
Shortly before the video of Toledo’s shooting was released, Lightfoot expressed sympathy for his family and pleaded for Chicagoans to remain calm. “We must proceed with deep empathy and calm and importantly, peace,” she said, choking up. “No family should ever have a video broadcast widely of their child’s last moments, much less be placed in the terrible situation of losing their child in the first place.”
The rumor that Lightfoot was going to resign apparently started with a now-deleted tweet from Ja’Mal Green, a Chicago activist who has been critical of the mayor, although he did endorse her in the 2019 election. “Lori Lightfoot is resigning tomorrow in a stunning end to her mayorship,” he tweeted Saturday. The tweet led “to speculation about a series of uncorroborated allegations about the mayor’s personal life,” the Sun-Times reports.
Green, although urging Lightfoot to resign, issued a statement Sunday apologizing for the tweet and saying he never intended to “amplify” the personal allegations. “I made clear to the public and to the mayor that my intention was never to fuel rumors about her family,” he said. “I have major concerns with how the mayor is leading right now, but I will never get personal.”
The LGBTQ Victory Fund, which works to elect out candidates, also condemned the personal attacks on Lightfoot.