Teen whose violent Oak Lawn arrest went viral released into parents' custody as prosecutors mull charges

A 17-year-old boy whose arrest by Oak Lawn police last week went viral on social media was released into his parents' custody Tuesday after being held at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center.

On July 27, Hadi Abuatelah of Palos Hills was in a vehicle that was pulled over after officers smelled "burnt cannabis" emanating from the car near Southwest Highway and Austin Avenue in Oak Lawn. Police dashcam video shows Abuatelah run from officers just as one of them was going to pat him down.

Oak Lawn officers eventually caught up to Abuatelah and while taking him into custody on the ground, repeatedly punched the teenage suspect. Police say Abuatelah had a handgun on him and was reaching for it while resisting arrest.


"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," the Arab American Action Network said in a statement Tuesday.

The family of Abuatelah says the teen suffered a broken nose, bruising throughout his body and bleeding near his brain, and was hospitalized as a result.

"To hear a young man scream on camera, as three adults brutally beat him is unfathomable," said Muhammad Sankari, lead organizer with the Arab American Action Network.

On Monday, police say Abuatelah was released from Advocate Christ Medical Center and transported to the Oak Lawn Police Department lockup.

"Once we found out he was being released from the hospital and into the custody of the officers who brutally attacked him, we scrambled to come down and show our support," said Sankari.

Prosecutors requested a three-week delay to decide how to proceed. Oak Lawn police is seeking charges for weapons, drugs and resisting arrest.

"What we believe is, we want to continue to call for what we've been calling for since the beginning, the charges against Hadi need to be dropped. And in addition to that, those three officers who brutalized him, they should be put on trial and should be held accountable for their brutality toward Hadi," said Sankari.

The Arab American Action Network is also calling on Oak Lawn Police Chief Daniel Vittorio to fire and charge the officers seen in that video.

The Cook County State's Attorney's Office could not comment on the case.

On Monday evening, family, friends, and supporters of the teen gathered outside the police department – expressing outrage that Abuatelah was taken into custody after his hospitalization.

"They chose to continue to torment and punish him after the brutal beating by sending him to spend the night in juvenile lockup," said Sankari.

Video from the incident appears to show an officer discovering a gun in the teen's bag. Oak Lawn police say a semi-automatic weapon loaded with three live rounds was found.

"They were in fear for their own safety that he had a weapon, at that point in time they used control tactics, leg strikes," said Chief Daniel Vittorio, Oak Lawn Police Department.

The Oak Lawn Board of Trustees said in a statement on Saturday that they "commend our officers' decision to use less than lethal force" when arresting a teenager who allegedly had a gun.

Still, Abuatelah's supporters say they believe officers’ use of force was unjustified.

"The level of brutality really shook everyone to their core," said Sankari.

Parents of the 17-year-old walked into court Tuesday with support from AAAN. The group demonstrated outside the building, demanding the teen be released to his parent custody.  

"Watching three grown men beat a minor to an inch of his life on camera while we hear him scream is a horrific, horrific thing," Sankari said during a rally Tuesday. "I can't imagine what it was like for his family and his friends to watch that video. As a community, we are horrified and disgusted at what happened."

AAAN wants the officers fired and criminally prosecuted. 

"Hadi is on the ground. He is outnumbered he is outsized. They have him apprehended. You could see on the video the shots to the face. You could see on the video the knee and the various tactics that they used. This is a kid. These men are almost three times his size. He posed no threat on the ground. They had him apprehended. It's excessive. It's brutal and it's unacceptable," Bishop Tavis Grant said at the rally.

Abuatelah’s attorney, Zaid Abdallah, released the following statement to FOX 32 Chicago:

"Today Abdallah Law along with CAIR Chicago filed a seven-count complaint against Chief of Police Daniel Vittorio, the three officers that savagely beat Hadi, and The Village of Oak Lawn. This is the only way to bring justice to Hadi and bring about change to the relationship between the Oak Lawn Police and the Arab community. The Village of Oak Lawn's lack of willingness to take responsibility for the actions of its officers and cause change is deplorable at best. Police brutality is not acceptable under any circumstances, especially in Hadi’s circumstances. Hadi suffered severe, and likely lifelong damage from the vicious beating these officers gave him. We stand for justice, and we stand for Hadi."

Illinois State Police have three weeks to decide if they will move forward with charges against Abuatelah. The next hearing is set for Aug. 25.