Oak Lawn cop facing criminal charges after video showed him and other officers repeatedly punching 17-year-old boy

Officer Patrick O’Donnell was indicted Tuesday by a Cook County grand jury on counts of aggravated battery and official misconduct in connection with the July 27 arrest of Hadi Abuatelah.

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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

An Oak Lawn police officer is facing criminal charges after a video caught him and other officers repeatedly punching a 17-year-old boy during an arrest last summer, prompting outrage in the Arab American community.

Officer Patrick O’Donnell was indicted Tuesday by a Cook County grand jury on counts of aggravated battery and official misconduct in connection with the July 27 arrest of Hadi Abuatelah, according to a source with knowledge of the case.

A public information officer for the Oak Lawn Police Department declined to comment on the charges or say whether O’Donnell was still employed by the village.

Zaid Abdahllah, an attorney for Abuatelah, called news of the charges “a move in the right direction,” but was disappointed that all three officers involved are not facing charges.

He said Abuatelah and his family had not been contacted by anyone in the state’s attorney’s office about the charges as of Tuesday evening.

O’Donnell and the other two officers were filmed by a bystander holding Abuatelah on the ground and punching him in the head and legs during the arrest. As the video went viral, Oak Lawn Police Chief Daniel Vittorio defended his officers’ actions, which he said was in line with their training.

At a news conference where police showed dash cam video of the arrest, Vittorio said Abuatelah continued reaching for a shoulder bag as he struggled with officers and didn’t stop until an officer shocked him with a Taser.

Police said they recovered a loaded semi-automatic pistol from the bag, and the state’s attorney’s office charged Abuatelah with gun possession.

Police said the officers had stopped a car carrying Abuatelah because they smelled marijuana coming from it. Video shows officers approaching a black car parked along a series of garages behind an apartment building and searching the driver.

Abuatelah gets out of the rear back seat, then runs away as an officer begins to search him.

In a separate video released by Oak Lawn, a police cruiser pulls up and its dashboard camera shows Abuatelah being held on the ground by two officers. One officer is seen punching the teen’s leg repeatedly. Another officer punches the teen in the face several times before a third officer runs up.

The officers yell at Abuatelah to put his hands behind his back as an officer punches at the teen’s head. An officer then uses a Taser on Abuatelah and the teen is cuffed. Abuatelah spent six days in a hospital for fractures to his face, skull and pelvis, as well as swelling of his brain, his attorneys said.

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

Abuatelah’s mother, Dena Natour, said her “stomach was in knots” as she watched the video. “You feel so helpless, watching your child, seeing three oversized men just beating him.”

Muhammad Sankari, lead organizer with the Arab American Action Action Network, which organized rallies for Abuatelah after his arrest, said relations between the Arab American community and the village of Oak Lawn remain tense.

Since Abuatelah’s arrest, Sankari said more community members have shared stories of profiling and harassment by officers in Oak Lawn, which he said showed “a clear pattern of abuse of the community by police.”

The police chief’s comments that the officer had done nothing wrong, and the village’s continued support of the officers, “sent a dangerous message” that the village would protect officers who committed misconduct on the job, he said.

“What happened is indicative of a severe problem with policing in this country,” Sankari said.

On Tuesday night, the Arab American Action Network sent a text message to supporters calling for the other two officers involved in the arrest to face charges as well.

A spokeswoman for the Cook County state’s attorney’s office was not immediately available for comment.

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