After indictment of Oak Lawn cop, civil rights group presses for charges against two other cops in beating of 17-year-old suspect

“This is a crisis in the culture of policing that’s happening in this country,” said Muhammad Sankari with the Arab American Action Network.

SHARE After indictment of Oak Lawn cop, civil rights group presses for charges against two other cops in beating of 17-year-old suspect
Hadi Abuatelah stands between his attorney Zaid Abdahllah (left) and Tavis grant of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition on Wednesday at the Council On American-Islamic Relations in the Loop.

Hadi Abuatelah stands between his attorney Zaid Abdahllah (left) and Bishop Tavis Grant of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition on Wednesday at the Council On American-Islamic Relations in the Loop to discuss charges filed against an Oak Lawn police officer who was recorded repeatedly punching Abuatelah in the head during a July 27 arrest in the southwest suburb.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Civil rights groups on Wednesday praised the indictment of an Oak Lawn police officer in the beating of a 17-year-old suspect last summer, but said it was only the “first step” toward justice.

The groups — including the Council on American-Islamic Relations which has filed a civil rights lawsuit against the southwest suburb — said they will not rest until two other officers involved in the arrest also face charges.

“This is a crisis in the culture of policing that’s happening in this country,” said Muhammad Sankari with the Arab American Action Network.

On Tuesday, Police Officer Patrick O’Donnell was indicted by a Cook County grand jury on counts of aggravated battery and official misconduct, a source with knowledge of the case told the Sun-Times.

O’Donnell was recorded repeatedly punching 17-year-old Hadi Abuatelah during an arrest on July 27 after he ran from officers trying to search him. Police said Abuatelah disobeyed police orders and continued to reach for a shoulder bag he was carrying that allegedly contained a loaded handgun.

Abuatelah suffered fractures to his face, skull and pelvis, as well as swelling of his brain, his attorney Zaid Abdahllah said, adding that his client is also being treated for psychological trauma.

After he left the hospital, Abuatelah was charged last summer with illegal gun possession and released into the custody of his parents.

On Wednesday, Abuatelah stood with his family and representatives from the Arab American Action Network, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression and the Rainbow PUSH Coalition at a news conference but did not speak with reporters.

Hadi Abuatelah (center) stands between his mother, Dena Natour, and father, Muad Abuatelah during a news conference Wednesday at the Council On American Islamic Relations.

Hadi Abuatelah (center) stands between his mother, Dena Natour, and father, Muad Abuatelah, during a news conference Wednesday at the Council On American Islamic Relations.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

“We are happy that we’ve seen one charge against one of the officers,” Sankari said. “But this news comes as a result of the tireless work, not only of the brilliant legal team that’s representing Hadi and his family, but also of the multiracial coalition that’s been calling for justice from day one.”

After video of the arrest went viral, Oak Lawn Police Chief Daniel Vittorio defended his officers’ actions, saying they appeared to conform with the training officer’s receive.

Vittorio did not respond to requests for comment about the charges and attempts to reach O’Donnell and his attorney weren’t successful on Wednesday.

“I really hope it does go ahead and end in a conviction to send a message out that this was not right,” the family’s attorney Zaid Abdahllah said Wednesday.  “I really hope that this is reflected in the way that the Cook County state’s attorney prosecutes this case.” 

Abdahllah said he also hopes to see investigations continue into two other officers involved in the arrest.

The officers had stopped a car carrying Abuatelah because they smelled marijuana coming from it, according to police officials. 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.

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