Chicago, IL — Rylan Wilder was a 15-year-old boy who made history in 2019 by becoming the youngest person to have ever played at the music festival Riot Fest in Chicago's Douglas Park. He is the lead guitarist and vocalist for his band, Monarchy Over Monday. Unfortunately, however, Wilder may never be able to play music again after he was shot twice by police as they pursued and killed a robbery suspect, Christopher Willis.
Now, nearly two years after the shooting, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office has announced that the officer who started wildly firing into the occupied music school, Des Plaines Police Officer James Armstrong, will not face charges, and Wilder's bullet holes were ruled "justified."
“I don’t want to say they ruined my life, but they took away a huge part of it that I loved and they just don’t say anything,” Wilder told WGN. His family pointed out that police never even offered so much as an apology for shooting him.
“Will I ever be able to play guitar again?” was Wilder's first question after coming out of surgery. According to his doctors, the answer to that question is unknown as he has undergone 14 surgeries since that day on his arm and abdomen. He has yet to regain control of his arm. Wilder told reporters that police are acting as if they never shot him.
Two years later and the government has still refused to take responsibility for the incident.
“Willis had just shot an officer in the head and had previously displayed his gun during the armed robbery and aggravated vehicular hijacking. Thus, Officer Armstrong reasonably believed that when Willis pointed the gun at him — he would shoot,” the state’s attorney’s law enforcement accountability division wrote in its decision.
“Rylan’s life was changed through no fault of his own due to the reckless actions of the Des Plaines police officer,“ the Wilder family’s attorney Tim Cavanagh said. “We are lucky more kids were not shot as a result of the officer’s reckless actions.”
Wilder was shot in the abdomen and the arm, with one of the bullets shattering his bones.
According to the teen's mother Lucia Morales, her son is now missing several arteries in his arm and a metal rod was surgically put into his wrist to hold it together. Morales told CBS Chicago that Rylan still does not have feeling in certain fingers and “at this moment, we don’t know if he will recover from that.”
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Luckily, the bullet which struck him in the abdomen narrowly missed his major organs.
As TFTP reported at the time, police said that Willis was suspected of robbing a bank several jurisdictions over and had led officers on a long chase before retreating into the music school.
Chicago Police were reportedly waiting as Willis exited the expressway after they say Willis shot and wounded one of their own. That officer has since been released from the hospital.
According to CBS Chicago, the family's lawsuit contains the text messages between Rylan and his dad that night.
Before the shooting, Rylan asks, “could you pick me up at 7:15 please?”
His mom writes back, “yes — daddy will pick you up — he wants to see how the mini is running.”
Rylan says, “cool thanks” with a kiss emoji.
But nearly an hour later, mom writes “Hey is everything OK? Dad’s trying to get there, but everything is blocked off by police.”
Imagine the horror that this family felt after going to pick up their son at his job at a music school, seeing the police lights and not hearing back from Rylan. One couldn't help but to imagine the worst, and that is just what they got. When they finally caught up with their son, he was bleeding out in a hospital bed.
"No one can ever imagine what it's like to see their child on a table like that," Morales told reporters. "The amount of doctors working on him the amount of blood everywhere was unbelievable."
One of the pieces of evidence the Wilder's legal team asked for as part of their lawsuit is the Des Plaines Police Department pursuit policy, which states in the first paragraph of that policy that balancing the safety of the public is as important as catching the suspect, and “hazards to uninvolved bystanders and motorists” should be a factor in terminating a pursuit. Apparently, however, that did not happen as Rylan was shot for merely being in the music school in which the suspect ran.
Sadly, police shooting children in Chicago is not as rare as one would think. In April, TFTP reported on the killing of 13-year-old Adam Toledo who appeared to be unarmed and have his hands in the air when he was gunned down by a Chicago cop.