A Chicago ShotSpotter Alert Led To An Officer Firing At An Unarmed Child

The gunshot detection technology was meant to alert police immediately to the location of gunfire. Newly released video shows what became a near fatal flaw.
A Chicago police officer fired at a child after a ShotSpotter alert wrongly indicated gunshots were fired on Jan. 25. The child was not injured.
A Chicago police officer fired at a child after a ShotSpotter alert wrongly indicated gunshots were fired on Jan. 25. The child was not injured.
chicago office of police accountability

Last month, Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson announced that the city will stop using ShotSpotter, the controversial gunshot detection technology meant to alert police immediately to the exact location of gunfire. Johnson said the system was too expensive, ineffective and potentially prejudicial.

On Tuesday, the city’s Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) released body-camera footage of Chicago police officers responding to a ShotSpotter alert that indicated gunshots had been fired — but they then nearly shot a child who’d been playing with fireworks.

An officer’s bodycam footage dated Jan. 25 shows police arriving at the scene with flashlights to search the area. Then a loud bang can be heard. The footage shows officers immediately running toward the noise, and one officer fires his gun.

“Shots fired. Shots fired,” one officer says.

With their flashlights on, officers shout for a person nearby to come out with their hands up. Officers repeat their commands with their guns drawn.

In another video angle from a Ring camera recording, a child at the home was outside playing basketball. The child drops what appears to be firecrackers on the ground and then runs away with a basketball in his hand.

The child runs back, yelling toward the officers that there were not any gunshots.

“No, it’s just fireworks,” the child is heard saying on camera.

Police initially said an adult had fired shots and fled the area. But that turned out not to be the case.

“COPA can confirm that a firearm was not used against the officers,” said COPA First Deputy Chief Administrator Ephraim Eaddy.

“When officers arrived in the area, they observed an individual, who has now been identified as a juvenile, standing near a residence. As one officer exited the vehicle, they heard a loud bang, which was later determined to be fireworks. The officer who exited the vehicle discharged their firearm in the direction of the juvenile, who was not struck by gunfire. At this time, no criminal charges are pending, and no weapon was recovered.”

An investigation of the incident is still being conducted. The officer who fired toward the child was placed on administrative duty for 30 days.

During his campaign, Johnson said ShotSpotter was “unreliable and overly susceptible to human error,” noting that it was a key factor in the March 2021 death of 13-year-old Adam Toledo, who was shot by a Chicago Police Department officer responding to a ShotSpotter alert.

Johnson announced last week that the city would spend $8.6 million to continue to use the ShotSpotter system for nine final months.

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