Teen beaten by police in Oak Lawn released from hospital, taken to juvenile detention

The teenager, who spent six days in the hospital, faces charges for aggravated unlawful use of a weapon and resisting arrest.

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Protesters gathered in Oak Lawn last week after seeing a video showing police officers hitting 17-year-old Hadi Abuatelah as they tried to take him into custody.

Protesters gathered in Oak Lawn last week after seeing a video showing police officers hitting 17-year-old Hadi Abuatelah as they tried to take him into custody.

Andy Grimm/Sun-Times file

A 17-year-old boy who was badly beaten during an arrest by Oak Lawn Police officers was taken into police custody Monday to face drug and weapon charges, prompting outrage from members of the large Arab-American community in the south suburbs.

Hadi Abuatelah, a Palestinian American teenager, was taken to the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center in Chicago after a brief stay at the Oak Lawn Police station. Activists staged a rally Monday outside the station that drew about 100 protesters, said organizer Hatem Abudayyeh, executive director of the Arab American Action Network.

The teen faces a charge of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon, felony and misdemeanor counts of resisting arrest, and cannabis possession, and would be subject to a detention hearing, police said. As of 7 p.m. Monday, the teen had not been released from the detention center, Abudayyeh said.

At a press conference last week, Oak Lawn Police Chief Daniel Vittorio said the teen was trying to reach for his shoulder bag, which held a loaded gun, even after he was tackled and struggled with a trio of officers near the intersection of 95th Avenue and McVickers.

Monday, the department said it was cooperating with an investigation of the arrest by the State Police Public Integrity Task Force that had been requested by the Cook County state’s attorney’s office.

Abuatelah bolted as officers tried to search him after pulling over a car the teen had been riding in, after allegedly smelling marijuana smoke from the vehicle. Another teen who was driving the car said police found no drugs in the car; he was cited him for minor violations including having a cracked windshield.

Video filmed by a bystander of officers repeatedly striking Abuatelah after the teen was tackled and pinned to the ground shocked residents in the south suburbs, who say police and Oak Lawn and neighboring communities harass members of the Arab American community, Abudayyeh said.

“People aren’t standing for it. We have gotten so much of this profiling and harassment from police in Oak Lawn and the south suburbs, and this has just been a breaking point,” Abudayyeh said.

“This is a part of all the excessive force incidents we are seeing from police, and whether he had a gun or not, police should not beat someone who is pinned down, a child in this case, within an inch of his life.”

The teen, who suffered a fracture to his pelvis and bleeding inside his skull, was wearing a neck brace and using crutches as he left the hospital, said Saadia Pervaiz, spokeswoman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Chicago.

The organization and Abuatelah’s family on Monday filed a civil rights lawsuit against the officers and the village, alleging police used excessive force and the officers and department engaged in “racially motivated conspiracy” to deprive the teen of his civil rights.

The lawsuit hopes to recover damages for the injured teen and require reforms and improved training for officers, Pervaiz said. CAIR-Chicago for years has fielded complaints from Arab American residents about bias and harassment by police in Oak Lawn, Pervaiz said.

“We are mainly pushing for reform,” she said. “You can see that this child is a victim of excessive force ... he is subdued on the ground, not resisting. He does not need to be punched in the face.”

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