Hadi Abuatelah, teen beaten during Oak Lawn arrest, released from custody as prosecutors weigh charges against him
CHICAGO (CBS) -- Hadi Abuatelah, the 17-year-old boy at the center of a violent and controversial police arrest in Oak Lawn, was released from custody Tuesday afternoon, as Cook County prosecutors decide whether to move forward with charges being sought by police.
Abuatelah spent the night in custody Monday night, after he was released from Advocate Christ Medical Center. Oak Lawn Police announced he had been taken into custody on one count of felony aggravated unlawful use of a weapon and resisting arrest, and also with two counts of misdemeanor resisting arrest and possession of cannabis by a passenger in a motor vehicle.
The teen made his first court appearance in Juvenile Court on Tuesday, but Cook County prosecutors said they haven't decided if they'll be moving forward with charges against him. He was released to the custody of his parents, and prosecutors have three weeks to decide on any charges against him.
Abuatelah walked out of court with help from a walker, assisted by his lawyer and parents.
"All I've got to say is thank you for all the support," he said, flanked by his family and dozens of supporters.
He said spending a night in police custody was "terrible."
"We stand with Hadi. We stand against police brutality. We stand against all of the injustices that police do to citizens of this country and this county. So we stand with Hadi until the very end, and we pray for a positive result, and we pray for his health and well-being," attorney Shady Yassin said.
Yassin said recovery is now his client's first priority.
"He's suffering a lot of injuries right now – some known and some unknown right now," Yassin said. "So he's having a hard time just doing the simple things such as walking."
In a statement, the Arab American Action Network also praised the decision to release Abuatelah:
"This victory is won not only by Hadi's legal team, but because of the tireless work of his family and community – organizing, advocating, and fighting for him. Hadi gets to go home to continue to heal, but the fight to get #Justice4Hadi is just beginning."
AAN also called on Cook County prosecutors to file charges against the officers who punched Abuatelah while he was pinned to the ground, and for Oak Lawn Police to fire the officers.
"We also must ensure that any and all police officers and law enforcement personnel who act with this kind of malicious, racist brutality are never allowed to violate our community's rights or patrol our streets ever again!"
It all stems from his arrest last week, which was caught on cell phone video, as Oak Lawn police officers repeatedly punched the teen while he was pinned to the ground.
It happened after a traffic stop, when Abuatelah ran away from police before they caught up to him and tackled him to the ground.
Abuatelah's family has said they still don't know what prompted that stop.
Meanwhile, Oak Lawn Police last week released dashcam video which shows the teen running. They claim he was reaching for something in a bag as officers tried to arrest him, adding that they found a loaded gun inside that bag.
Abuatelah's family has now filed a federal civil suit, accusing Oak Lawn Police of using excessive force.
The lawsuit claims three unnamed Oak Lawn police officers of "extreme and outrageous conduct," by repeatedly punching Abuatelah in the body, head, and face, after he'd already been tackled and pinned to the ground.
Abuatelah was hospitalized with internal bleeding in his brain, a fractured pelvis, broken nose, lacerations, and bruises after the violent arrest, according to the lawsuit.
Tuesday morning, community members and activists with the Rainbow PUSH Coalition gathered outside the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center, calling for Abuatelah's release.
"Oak Lawn Police had a choice to make yesterday. They could have done the right thing, and released Hadi into the custody of his parents yesterday. Instead, they decided to punish him further by transferring him to a juvenile detention facility overnight, and having him wait for a hearing. This is punitive. They're trying to punish Hadi more," said Muhammad Sankari, lead organizer with the Arab American Action Network.
Bishop Tavis Grant, national field director for the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, said the video of Abuatelah's arrest shows clear evidence of police brutality.
"They have him apprehended. You can see on the video the shots to the face. You can see on the video the knee and the various tactics that they used. This is a kid," Grant said.
Grant said instead of Abuatelah, it should be the officers who arrested him facing a judge.
"Those officers should be fired, they should be terminated, and they should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," he said.
The Illinois State Police Zone 1 Public Integrity Task Force is investigating the incident at the request of the Cook County State's Attorney's office. At last check, the officers involved in Abuatelah's rest were still patrolling as the probe continues.
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