Oak Lawn, IL – An Oak Lawn police officer was arraigned on aggravated battery and misconduct charges on Wednesday for the beating of a 17-year-old suspect last summer.
A Cook County grand jury indicted Oak Lawn Police Officer Patrick O’Donnell on Feb. 14 for aggravated battery and official misconduct in connection with the July 27, 2022 arrest of 17-year-old Hadi Abuatelah, WMAQ reported.
Officer O’Donnell appeared before Judge Domenica Stephenson for his arraignment on March 1, CBS News reported.
The officer pleaded not guilty to the felony charges in a packed courtroom at the Leighton County Criminal Courthouse, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
Officer O’Donnell’s defense attorney, James McKay, told the court that Abuatelah had been “trying to get that gun” and all of the officers involved were lucky to have escaped the arrest with their lives.
“This is just another example of [Cook County State’s Attorney] Kim Foxx criminalizing lawful arrests,” McKay said during the hearing.
He told the judge the 33-year-old officer, who joined the Oak Lawn police force in 2014, is a lifelong resident of the county and has two small children at home.
Stephenson released Officer O’Donnell on his own recognizance and did not acquiesce to the prosecutions’ request that the officer turn over his FOID card or weapons, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
The family of Abuatelah said he was riding in the back seat of a friend’s car when police pulled them over, CBS News reported.
Cell phone video posted to social media by bystanders showed three officers holding Abuatelah face down on the pavement and punching him, The New York Times reported.
Community members and activists were outraged and launched protests demanding the officers involved be criminally charged, WLS reported.
“He has fractures all of his face, he’s bruised, he’s in the hospital right now with a neck brace,” Abuatelah’s mother, Dena Natour, told reporters at the time.
“Why did the police – over 300 pounds – attack my son that’s only 115 pounds?” she asked. “Why did they do that? It’s not called for. It’s not necessary. I want justice for my son. This is not acceptable.”
The teen suffered a broken pelvis, fractured skull, and multiple other injuries as a result of his altercation with police, CBS News reported.
But despite the onslaught of criticism, Oak Lawn Police Chief Daniel Vittorio has stood behind his officers and explained that Abuatelah had a loaded gun in his possession when the videos of his apprehension were filmed, CBS News reported.
Dashcam video from the incident – Oak Lawn police do not have bodycams – showed what happened from the beginning of the traffic stop the officers initiated after they smelled burned marijuana coming from the suspect vehicle.
The dashcam showed officers got the driver out of the stopped vehicle and searched him for weapons.
The driver complied with officers’ orders and then went and stood at the rear of the vehicle as instructed, the video showed.
Then the officers got Abuatelah out of the car to search him, the police chief said.
When officers started searching Abuatelah, dashcam video showed the teen fled.
Police chased the teen to the intersection of 95th Street and McVicker Avenue and tackled him when they caught up, The New York Times reported.
The police chief said that as Abuatelah struggled with officers on the ground, he kept reaching for his bag, CBS News reported.
Abuatelah “refused to listen to verbal commands which resulted in a physical confrontation with two officers,” according to Chief Vittorio.
The chief said the teen kept trying to get his hands on his bag as he fought the officers trying to detain him.
He said the officers thought Abuatelah was reaching for weapon and the bystanders’ videos showed them using control tactics to release the teen’s hands from the bag that held his gun, CBS News reported.
Chief Vittorio said Abuatelah didn’t stop resisting arrest until an officer deployed a stun gun.
Police released pictures of the pistol loaded with three bullets that was recovered from the boy’s satchel.
Police said Abuatelah was transported to the hospital for treatment after his arrest, The New York Times reported.
Two of the officers who arrested the teen were also injured in the altercation, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
None of the officers involved in Abuatelah’s arrest have been suspended or placed on desk duty.