(CNN) — An unarmed 13-year-old boy was shot by an officer with the Chicago Police Department, according to the city’s Office of Civil Police Accountability, and an investigation into the matter is underway.
The boy’s lawyers and witnesses maintain that he had his hands up when the police opened fire. The boy is now paralyzed after being shot in the back, lawyers said.
The police officer, identified by his attorney as Noah Ball, believed the suspect was pointing a gun, which turned out to be a cell phone, and made a split-second decision to fire, his attorney told CNN.
What was recorded on video of the police shooting
As an independent police oversight office investigates the incident, new body camera video obtained exclusively by CNN shows the frantic final moments leading up to the shooting and what immediately followed.
In the footage, taken on the night of May 18, an officer jumps out of his car to chase a 13-year-old boy who had escaped from a suspected stolen vehicle and runs past him. Other officers are also in pursuit, including Ball, who, according to his attorney, had seen the vehicle hours earlier driving directly toward his car.
Officers chase the teen to a nearby gas station on the west side of the Chicago Marathon, and one officer fires three times, audio from police body cameras shows.
Video from a body camera shows the 13-year-old boy at the tail end of the chase, slowing down, turning and appearing to raise his hands as he is shot.
He was unarmed. The teen’s attorneys told CNN that he was trying to turn himself in. The agent’s attorney said Ball mistook a large cell phone, which he said he was holding the 13-year-old boy, for a gun and made a split-second decision.
Body camera footage from multiple officers shows officers reacting to the shooting. One goes to the ground and says: “Jesus, Christ, friend.” He later walks up to the teen and asks, “Did someone shoot?” He then notices the injured teenager and says, “They hit him? Damn, call an ambulance.”
The camera of the police officer who shoots was off
Ball’s body camera was not on at the time of the shooting, and it did not activate until approximately 40 seconds after the shooting ended.
Shortly after his camera was turned on, Ball is heard asking another officer, “Is your camera on?” and when that officer says yes, he says, “Okay, okay.”
Ball’s attorney, Timothy Grace, told CNN his client’s body camera inadvertently turned off, but the teen’s attorneys said it was inexcusable.
“The suggestion that ‘Hey, maybe this was just a temporary distraction because I was involved in a chase,’ they’re trained in the first place,” Steven Hart, one of the attorneys representing the teen’s family, told CNN. “They’ve thought ahead. They know they’re supposed to activate their cameras and it’s up to them to do it. No one else can do it.”
Only a cell phone and a pool of blood were left on the ground shortly after the incident, when two officers lifted the 13-year-old boy by his sweatshirt and legs and carried him away from the gas pump where he fell wounded.
The teen’s lawyers said it was a clear example of how police viewed the teen. “He is being dragged without regard for this young man, being rag dolled away from the scene to another area after he had already sustained a serious back injury,” said Andrew M. Stroth, one of the attorneys for the Teen. CNN.
Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown told reporters the day after the shooting: “The young man was pulled away from what could have been gas pumps based on the shots being fired in that direction.”
“His hands are up” at the time of the shots
According to the Chicago Police Department, the 13-year-old boy was a passenger in a suspected stolen car. When officers tried to stop the car, he jumped out and started running, police said.
Brown told reporters that the car’s license was identified by a license plate reader and then a police helicopter began tracking the car and transmitting the location.
Not long after, police arrived at the scene and began a foot chase. It was over in seconds.
“His hands are up, there was no justification for the officer to shoot,” Stroth told CNN.
Some people on the scene that night seemed to agree.
“He had his damn hands up!” a bystander is heard yelling on an officer’s body camera.
“He had his hands up and I saw the police officer run up to that kid and start shooting him, he didn’t have a gun or anything,” another witness told CNN affiliate WLS. He only identified himself as “Anthony”.
But Ball’s attorney looks less at where the hands were and more at what his client thought was on them.
“Drop the gun!” is heard on a police body camera. “Show us your damn hands!” and “He’s got a fucking gun!” is heard shouting after the shots.
Ball’s attorney wrote to CNN, “Officer Ball can be heard yelling that he has a gun.” Ball believed “the object pointed at him was a firearm. That dark object in his hand pointed at the officers was not a firearm, but rather a large cell phone,” Grace wrote.
He added: “Officer Ball had to make a split second decision as he had no cover or concealment. He unloaded his service weapon to stop the threat.”
The 13-year-old’s lawyers questioned whether he had anything in his hands and argued there is no definitive video to prove it.
They also said that he was trying to surrender and that the chase should not have happened in the first place.
“If all it takes is for someone to run from the police to justify a shooting, we have real problems in this city and in this country,” Hart told CNN.
Stroth added: “There have been no charges against him, he was in a stolen vehicle and he got away. He got away. And that justifies being shot in the back and being paralyzed from the waist down?”
Ball was stripped of his police powers two days after the shooting and is awaiting the outcome of the Office of Civil Police Accountability investigation.
Would the new foot pursuit policy have prevented shooting?
In June, the Chicago Police Department released its long-awaited new policy on foot chases, nearly a month after the shooting of this 13-year-old boy and more than a year after the shooting and murder of 22-year-old Anthony Toledo. Adam Toledo, 13, during foot chases.
The policy will go into effect at the end of August.
The new policy states that police officers can only engage in a foot chase if “there is a valid law enforcement need to stop the person” that outweighs the dangers of the chase.
Other factors in determining whether to initiate a pursuit include: area containment, law enforcement saturation in the area, helicopter unit support, and more.
“In determining the most appropriate tactical option, the safety of Department members, members of the public, and anyone being pursued is the primary consideration,” the new policy says.
The policy also states that: “Deciding to initiate or continue a foot pursuit is a decision that a member of the Department must make quickly and under unpredictable and dynamic circumstances. It is recognized that foot pursuits may put members of the Department and the public at significant risk.
Alexandra Block, an attorney with the ACLU of Illinois, says the language of the new policy is not enough.
“There’s a lot of slippery language about how officers should know, consider the totality of the circumstances, or consider alternatives to going after people, but there aren’t enough black-and-white rules that officers should follow,” Block told CNN.
“Then officers find themselves in the split-second decision-making circumstances where, if they haven’t been trained to go after someone or not to go after someone under a circumstance, they’re likely to make the wrong decision.”
The teen’s family has filed a federal lawsuit against the Chicago Police Department.
“She can’t walk, she can’t get up, she can’t go to the bathroom, she can’t get her own food, I mean, her life has changed forever,” Stroth told CNN.
Hart added, “He’s just not our 13-year-old client. He’s at the bottom of a long list of mostly minorities who have been shot, severely maimed, or killed by the Chicago Police Department.”
“They’re supposed to value the sanctity of human life. There was no value here. They didn’t value the life of this 13-year-old boy,” he said.