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Police release dashboard video in arrest of teen pinned, punched on ground in Oak Lawn

Oak Lawn police stand by officers shown on video striking teen
Oak Lawn police stand by officers shown on video striking teen 03:09

OAK LAWN, Ill. (CBS) -- Disturbing video posted on social media shows three Oak Lawn police officers on top of a teenager, repeatedly punching him as he's pinned to the ground.

As CBS 2's Sabrina Franza reported, the boy's family organized a protest Thursday afternoon outside the Oak Lawn Police department, furious that a traffic stop landed their high school senior in the hospital at the hands of police.

Hadi Abuatelah's mother left her 17-year-old son's bedside Thursday afternoon to call for justice. He is hospitalized with a fracture to the back and severe internal bleeding.

"He has fractures all over his face, he's bruised, he's in the hospital right now with a neck brace," said Dena Natour. "Why did the police, over 300 pounds, attack my son that's only 115 pounds? Why did they do what they did? It's not called for, it's not necessary, and not acceptable. I want justice for my son. This is not acceptable."

Hadi Abuatelah, 17, lies in a bed at Advocate Christ Medical Center, after Oak Lawn police officers repeatedly punched him while he was pinned on the ground during an arrest. Dena Natour

Video shared on social media shows Oak Lawn police officers pinning Abuatelah to the ground, punching him over and over again as he lies on the pavement.

A bystander recorded the video with her cell phone.

Abuatelah's family said he was sitting in the passenger seat of his friend's car Wednesday afternoon when they were pulled over. They said they don't know what prompted the traffic stop, and have no idea why officers would use this level of force on the teenager. They said he was the only one in the car to whom this happened.

Ahmed Rehab, executive director of the Chicago chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations, said Abuatelah is a student and a barber who has no criminal record.

While protest continued outside the station, Oak Lawn police held a news conference where they released dashcam video showing Abuatelah fleeing from the traffic stop -- leading to the chase. Police do not wear body cameras in Oak Lawn.  

Police release dashboard footage of teen arrested in Oak Lawn 03:19

Oak Lawn police Chief Daniel Vittorio said an officer pulled over the car in which Abuatelah was riding near Southwest Highway and Austin Avenue. Police said they smelled burnt marijuana.

The driver complied during the traffic stop, but police said Abuatelah got out of the car and took off running, Vittorio said.

"He appeared to be nervous and had an accessory bag draped over his shoulder," Vittorio said.

Police said the bag is key, because as officers chased the teen to the intersection of 95th Street and McVicker Avenue, dashcam video shows police tackle the teen - and officers claim that Abuatelah kept reaching for the bag.

Police said Abuatelah "refused to listen to verbal commands which resulted in a physical confrontation with two officers."

After he was captured, Abuatelah tried to take control of the bag during the incident, police said.

Vittorio also mentioned that the officers feared Abuatelah was reaching for a weapon, and used control tactics to release the teen's hands. 

He didn't stop resisting arrest until a stun gun was used, according to Chief Vittorio.

Officers found a Raven Arms P25.25 caliber gun in the bag loaded with three rounds of ammunition, Vittorio said. 

Oak Lawn Police

Rehab said, regardless of the reason for chasing and arresting Abuatelah , he was on the ground, helpless, and not resisting when officers began punching him, even though he posed no threat to them. He said, although Abuatelah is expected to recover from his injuries, it's only a "stroke of luck" that he didn't suffer more serious injuries.

"The way that he was pounded and punched, this could have resulted in a permanent brain injury that changed the quality of life," he said. "Regardless of what he was accused of, we have a system in this country. You can subdue the suspect, you can arrest the suspect, handcuff them, proceed to ask them questions. The police department said that there was a gun found. They did not allege that this gun was brandished, that it was threatening them at any point."

Rehab also said the family believes if there was a gun found during the arrest, it was found in a bag after Abuatelah was in custody.

Hadi Abuatelah Dena Natour

Even if Abuatelah was carrying a gun at the time, a legal expert said that is not a justification for officers to use excessive force.

"The only time that use of force and use of deadly force is justified is when there is a threat of force being directed at the officers, or actual force. The presence of a gun, by itself, does not indicate a threat with happening," said David Harris, a professor of law at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law who specializes in police issues.

Abuatelah's attorney, Zaid Abdallah, said the officers who beat him should be suspended, pending an investigation into the beating, and ultimately should be fired.

"This is not policing activity. This is a disgusting act of hate and malice," he said. "You could see, clearly, minutes pass as the officers have my client subdued; both of them, well over 200 pounds, on top of my client before punches to his head, slamming his head off the pavement. Punches to his body, crushing his bones. This was not a situation where they were trying to subdue a suspect. This was a situation that involved malice and hate from these officers."

Abdallah also disputed Oak Lawn Police Department's assertion that one of the officers involved had to go to the hospital.

"If he went to the hospital, he went to the hospital to have his knuckles checked from breaking them on my client's head," he said.

The offender and an officer were transported to Advocate Christ due to injuries due to the incident. The condition of the officer is unknown. 

Chief Vittorio says there is an internal investigation of the use of excessive force used during the arrest. None of the officers have been placed on leave.

Charges are pending against the teen. 

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