Teen battered by Oak Lawn police officers in viral video charged with illegal possession of gun

Hadi Abuatelah, 17, spent six days in a hospital after the beating. Police say officers were preventing the teen from reaching a for a gun.

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Hadi Abuatelah, 17, uses a walker after his release from a night in juvenile detention earlier this month.

Hadi Abuatelah, 17, uses a walker after his release from a night in juvenile detention earlier this month.

Anthony Vázquez/Sun-Times

A teen who was beaten by Oak Lawn police officers in an incident that was captured on video and went viral was charged Thursday with illegal gun possession.

Though police initially said Hadi Abuatelah, 17, would also face charges of resisting arrest and cannabis possession, prosecutors with the Cook  County state’s attorney’s office filed only a single felony gun charge during a virtual juvenile court hearing, according to the teen’s attorney, Shady Yassin.

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. Shortly after the video was released, Police Chief Daniel Vittorio said that Abuatelah was reaching for a loaded gun concealed in a shoulder bag during the struggle.

His arrest stemmed from a July 27 traffic stop initiated because police officers allegedly smelled marijuana coming from a car in which Abuatelah was a passenger. 

Vittorio said his officers used force that was in line with their training.

Yassin condemned the use of force Thursday and declined to comment about the gun Abuatelah allegedly possessed. He said he planned to prove the teen was innocent of the charge.

“The police use of force was egregious, clearly excessive and repulsive. It’s a sad excuse for police work,” he said.

Abuatelah spent six days in a hospital after the attack to receive treatment for fractures to his face, skull and pelvis, as well as swelling of his brain. He then spent a night in juvenile  detention.

Video showing the officers punching the  teen as he was pinned to the ground was filmed by a bystander who was a few feet away.

Abuatelah attended his first day of class at his school Thursday with the assistance of a cane, but the Palestinian American teen has “many doctors appointment ahead of him on a long road to recovery,”  Yassin said.

Muhammad Sankari with the Arab American Action Network said he wants to see the police officers fired and criminally charged.

“A message needs to be sent that this kind of brutality has no place in our communities,” he said at news conference held Thursday by activists outside the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center. 

Rainbow PUSH Coalition National Field Director Bishop Tavis Grant II (left) speaks Thursday outside the Cook County Temporary Juvenile Detention Center after Hadi Abuatelah’s hearing on a felony gun possession charge.

Rainbow PUSH Coalition National Field Director Bishop Tavis Grant II (left) speaks Thursday outside the Cook County Temporary Juvenile Detention Center after 17-year-old Hadi Abuatelah’s hearing on a felony gun possession charge. Arab American Action Network lead organizer Muhammad Sankari (right) said Abuatelah suffered head and neck injuries and was hospitalized following the encounter with Oak Lawn police, which was filmed by a bystander and showed officers beating the teen during a traffic stop.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

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