OAK LAWN, IL — A police officer is facing criminal charges following a video that surfaced showing him and several other police officers punching a 17-year-old boy while trying to arrest him. The arrest took place last summer.
According to reports, officer Patrick O’Donnell was indicted by a grand jury in Cook County on Tuesday. He was indicted on counts of aggravated battery and official misconduct in regard to the arrest of Hadi Abuatelah on July 27, as reported by NBC Chicago.
NBC Chicago reports also state that “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.”
Abuatelah, 17, was in the car involved in a traffic stop. Reports state the officers stopped the car because it smelled like marijuana. Dash cam footage shows the police officers approaching the car, which was parked near the garages of an apartment complex. An officer searched the driver before Abuatelah exited the vehicle and fled the scene just as the officers were about to search him.
Another video captured by an Oak Lawn police cruiser’s dashboard camera shows the officers fighting to arrest Abuatelah as he is on the ground while also punching him continuously. It also shows one of the officers punching him in the face.
Abuatelah was told by the officers to put his hands behind his back while an officer punched him in the head. He was then tased and cuffed. According to his attorneys, Abuatelah spent six days in the hospital following the arrest as he suffered severe injuries from the punches. Reports state he experienced fractures to the face, skull and pelvis, as well as swelling of his brain.
A bystander got O’Donnell and two other police officers on film as they fought to arrest Abuatelah on the ground as they punched his head and legs. The video quickly circulated on social media. Oak Lawn Police Chief Daniel Vittorio defended the officers’ behavior, saying that it is what they are trained to do.
A police officer’s dash cam footage was played at a news conference and shows several officers fighting to arrest Abuatelah while he was on the ground and kept reaching for a shoulder bag. Abuatelah stopped when he was tased by an officer, reports state.
Zaid Abdahllah, an attorney for Abuatelah, stated in a report that the charges are “a move in the right direction.” However, he was upset that all officers involved were not charged.
According to reports, Abuatelah’s family and the Council on American-Islamic Relations Chicago have filed a civil rights lawsuit against the Oak Lawn police officers and the village.
“You feel so helpless, watching your child, seeing three oversized men just beating him,” Abuatelah’s mother, Dena Natour, said in the NBC Chicago report.
“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,” NBC Chicago reported.
Sankari said that Abuatelah’s arrest sparked others to share their own experiences of harassment and profiling by police officers in the city. He stated these stories display “a clear pattern of abuse of the community by police” in the NBC Chicago report.
“What happened is indicative of a severe problem with policing in this country,” Sankari said.
The Arab American Action Network issued a message via text to its supporters stating that all officers should face charges, as two of the officers involved have not faced any charges.