Teen arrested after Oak Lawn traffic stop released to parents

Hadi Abuatelah, 17, was hospitalized after being punched by officers during his arrest last Wednesday.

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Hadi Abuatelah, 17, uses a walker after being released from juvenile detention last year.

Hadi Abuatelah, 17, uses a walker after being released from juvenile detention Tuesday. He was injured while being arrested by Oak Lawn police after a traffic stop.

Anthony Vázquez/Sun-Times

Using a walker and surrounded by cheering supporters, 17-year-old Hadi Abuatelah walked slowly out of the Cook County Juvenile Court building Tuesday to return home with his parents.

The teen, who faces gun and resisting arrest charges, had spent Monday night in the county Juvenile Temporary Detention Center, where he’d been taken by Oak Lawn police following his release from the hospital. He was hospitalized for six day after suffering head and neck injuries when he was repeatedly punched by police as they arrested him last week following a traffic stop in the south suburb.

Abuatelah’s release Tuesday came after a brief hearing in juvenile court, where prosecutors asked for a three-week delay to review whether to move forward with the prosecution, and a judge ordered his release to the custody of his parents.

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Before a bank of media microphones, the Palestinian American teen thanked the two dozen or so supporters who had waited several hours for his case to be called, many of them Arab Americans from the south suburbs outraged by online video posted by a bystander of officers hitting the teen after he was pinned to the ground.

Asked what his night in juvenile detention had been like, the teen said, “It was terrible.”

“He’s 17 years old, he’s never been in trouble before,” said his attorney, Shady Yassin. “He’s been handcuffed to a bed while he was in a hospital, brought over here as if he was a mass murderer with four officers surrounding him.”

Oak Lawn police have defended the actions of three officers involved in the arrest, who were seen on video punching the teen in the head as he was pinned to the ground by two officers. Police Chief Daniel Vittorio said last week that during the struggle, Abuatelah was reaching for a loaded gun concealed in a shoulder bag.

Attorney Yassin told reporters the delay by prosecutors was a sign they have misgivings about the arrest, which began with a traffic stop initiated because police officers allegedly smelled marijuana coming from a car in which Abuatelah was a passenger.

A spokeswoman for the Cook County state’s attorney on Tuesday said prosecutors are “reviewing the matter” and declined further comment.

Attorney Zaid Abdallah said the teen was interviewed by officers from the State Police Public Integrity Task Force who are investigating the Oak Lawn officers’ use of force during the arrest.

The teen’s family and the Council on American-Islamic Relations Chicago have filed a civil rights lawsuit against the Oak Lawn officers and the village

Last week, Chief Vittorio said two officers were treated for injuries they suffered in the struggle with Abuatelah, and none was suspended.

Dashboard camera video released by Oak Lawn police shows the teen bolting as an officer reaches to search him outside the car, touching off a foot chase that ended when the teen was tackled near 95th Street and McVickers Avenue.

The 17-year-old driver of the vehicle said police searched him and a second passenger after Abuatelah ran and found no drugs on them or in the car, issuing him tickets for having more than one passenger — which is illegal for a 17-year-old — a cracked windshield and improper display of his license plate.

Members of the large Muslim and Arab-American community in Oak Lawn and nearby suburbs has turned out for several demonstrations since video of the arrest went online, including a protest last week that drew several hundred protesters outside the Oak Lawn police station.

Lubna Jaffry, of Chicago Ridge, was among those outraged by the video of Abuatelah’s arrest. She brought her three children to the juvenile court Tuesday to show her support.

“Nobody deserves to be beaten the way (Abuatelah) was beaten,” Jaffry said. “We tell our children it’s wrong to have a gun. But he was on the ground with three huge officers beating him, holding him down. There is no reason to do that.”

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