Youth Graph. Annotated Map. CPD Child Killings Timeline. Art credit/Data Visualization: Charmaine Runes & Zahid Khalil
CPD Child Killings Timeline. Art credit/data Visualization: Charmaine Runes & Zahid Khalil

Trigger Warning: Police Violence

Since March 29, Chicago police officers have shot and killed three people, including thirteen-year-old Adam Toledo, whose killing drew particular outrage because he was so young. While most of us did not know Adam or his family, we have seen the police’s pattern of violence with impunity time and time again in recent years—a pattern that targets and disproportionately harms Black and brown communities. 

This pattern is not new. Chicago police officers have a long history of killing young people. While CPD has also killed several white youths, Black and brown kids and teens are often treated by much of society, including the police, as dangerous adults, as groups like Project NIA and CopsOutCPS have described. 

When CPD officers killed Adam Toledo, it wasn’t an aberration: CPD officers have killed at least forty people under the age of sixteen since 1940. I identified thirty-one instances by searching digitized archives on and ProQuest, and historical records at the Chicago History Museum. The Fatal Encounters database, which tracks people killed during interactions with police nationwide, lists nine more that occured between 2011 and 2020. 

These forty total instances are not exhaustive; it is also possible that some such killings went unreported or that I did not find the news articles written about them in my research. 

This data also does not include the dozens of older teenagers Chicago police have killed, such as Laquan McDonald, the seventeen-year-old who CPD shot to death in 2014. 

Between 1940 and 2010, police killed young people all over the city, ranging as far north and west as Montclare and as far south as Morgan Park, although young people were killed most frequently on the South and West Sides in predominantly Black and brown neighborhoods. The neighborhood with the highest number of police killings of children during that time period was Englewood. The race of the victim was mentioned in a little more than half of these reports; where it was, seventy-one percent of the people killed were Black. 

In more than eighty percent of the reports I reviewed, nobody had been injured at all until the police became involved. Roughly one-third of the young people were killed by off-duty cops, and more than three-quarters were killed outside in public spaces. Patrol officers accounted for about four-fifths of the killings, and detectives killed at least three teenagers.

Of the thirty-one killings that occurred before 2010, available newspaper articles indicate that four officers were criminally charged. Eight of the officers who killed a youth also killed at least one other person.

CPD Child Killings Timeline. Illustration By: Zahid Khalil
Illustration By: Zahid Khalil

The Fatal Encounters database recorded nine people under the age of sixteen who were killed in police-involved incidents in Chicago since 2010. They are fifteen-year-old Tatioun Williams in 2011; fifteen-year-old Dakota Bright in 2012; fifteen-year-old Michael Westley in 2013; eleven-year-old Donovan Turnage in 2013; fourteen-year-old Pedro Rios Jr. in 2014; one-year-old Dillan Harris in 2015; three-year-old Cabari Turner in 2018; two-year-old Danyla Owens in 2019; and ten-year-old Da’Karia Spicer in 2020. 

Turnage, Harris, Turner, Owens, and Spicer were all bystanders who were killed by vehicles police were pursuing, in some cases after officers had been ordered to break off the chase.

These nine killings made the 2010s the decade with the highest number of incidents involving CPD officers that resulted in the deaths of young people since the 1970s.  

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Alex Stein is a lawyer and researcher living in Chicago. This is his first piece for the Weekly.

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  1. Cops in Chicago killed 40 children over an 80 year span, right. But every year since about 1980 to 2021, hundreds of children have been killed each year, primarily by other children. And this has been going on for decades, not just in Chicago, but all across America. Children of all races in this country are shot and killed, often by other children all too often. It’s happens all day, every day. We got too many 15-15 yr olds being arrested for murder in this country. And all this comes from broken homes and dysfunctional families who fail raise children properly, parent their children, and be responsible adults. You can blame poverty and poor education all you like, because then it’s no longer a parenting and lack of values problem, it’s the system, so now parents are completely exempt from any responsibility for what becomes of their children. That’s bullshit. And as for poverty, that doesn’t just happen. It’s a disabling frame of mind that shows up in every aspect of your life, economics has very little to do with it. Another job, higher wages, job training, and work skills won’t fix that. Because if a person is still operating with the same mental program that has kept them on the lower end of the socioeconomic totem pole all their lives without any software upgrades, then the situation will remain the same. Thought Processes and Behavior Patterns need to change. Priorities need to change. Because you get $250,000 and squander it a week on foolishness. Give a poor family anywhere in the world $500,000 and I can guarantee you that will be broke in 6 months or less. They do it all the time with much less. Because a poverty driven mindset can envision wealth, it only knows lack. There is no way to acquire more with a mind fixated on lack and everything you don’t have. The poor except this as their lot in life. So though poverty and violence do intersect and do impact each other in many years, but ultimately they are 2 separate issues entirely.

  2. First of all, it certainly is a bit different when agents of the state perform extrajudicial killing of the state, don’t you think? To your second “point,” it is ridiculous and racist to think that what you describe is not the result of material conditions and is the result of some type of innate characteristics.

  3. These articles are exactly why we see so much hatred and bloodshed in our communities. Making the unfounded claims that police intentionally go out to kill children is not only false but disgusting. It causes hatred of eachother and removes the responsibility of taking care of children from their parents and turns it over to society. Most of these children came from broken homes with no parental control. Most police officers come to their jobs wanting to serve and protect their communities. That is the truth as I have witnessed it in my 34yrs on the job. You can’t count the number of children that are alive because of police officers doing their job every day for every community regardless of color, ethnicity or any other factors.

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