Ryan Clancy talks about his sister, Chicago Police Officer Patricia "Patsy" Swank, 29, who committed suicide last month. Clancy said the pressure on all police officers is a heavy burden and supports the Oak Lawn Police Department following a controversial arrest of a teen last month. Clancy made his comments during the Oak Lawn Village Board meeting Tuesday morning.(Photo by Joe Boyle)

Ryan Clancy talks about his sister, Chicago Police Officer Patricia "Patsy" Swank, 29, who committed suicide last month. Clancy said the pressure on all police officers is a heavy burden and supports the Oak Lawn Police Department following a controversial arrest of a teen last month. Clancy made his comments during the Oak Lawn Village Board meeting Tuesday morning.
(Photo by Joe Boyle)

Oak Lawn residents offer staunch support for police

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By Joe Boyle

Oak Lawn residents came out in force to offer support for the village’s police department after a well-publicized arrest of a teen following a traffic stop last month.

Residents jammed the Oak Lawn Village Hall for the board meeting Tuesday morning to provide testimony in support of officers after the arrest of Hadi Abuatelah, 17, of Palos Hills, on July 27 after a traffic stop. Police pulled over the vehicle Abuatelah was a passenger in at a parking lot in the 9500 block of Southwest Highway.

Police said the vehicle had no front license plates and they smelled the odor of burnt cannabis coming from the car. While the driver submitted to a pat down with no incident, Abuatelah appeared nervous and after putting his hands on the car, ran away from the officers, police said.

The controversy erupted after a social media video post showed the officers attempting to subdue Abuatelah at 95th and McVicker. Police said that the teen repeatedly tried to take something out of his accessory bag that was draped over his shoulder.

One officer continued to punch him in the leg while another officer struck him on the head several times. Police subdued Abuatelah and Police Chief Dan Vittorio later said during a news conference that the teen had a .25 caliber pistol in his bag.

Protesters have complained that the teen was beaten and is the victim of racial profiling because he is of Middle Eastern descent. However, Vittorio said police feared for their lives because the teen had a gun.

The majority of the residents who attended the village board meeting said the police have been unfairly maligned. During a public forum segment at the beginning of the meeting, residents offered their support of the police.

Mary Niego McNamara, a 14-year resident of Oak Lawn, said the recent incident made her furious and provided a video that included segments of various TV news reports from across the country that showed offenders shooting police officers after being pulled over at traffic stops.

Some of the officers in the edited footage were killed or severely injured from the gunfire.

Several speakers spoke briefly on behalf of the Oak Lawn Police Department and deferred the rest of their three-minute allotment of time to speak to show more of the video. The film clip in its entirety runs about 24 minutes.

One 52-year resident of Oak Lawn whose grand-niece just became a police officer wanted to know why the 17-year-old had a gun?

“The news media got one side of the story,” he said. “Parents of these children should monitor what they are doing.”

Another resident said he “commends police for what they are doing. I’m glad the gun is off the street.”

A 21-year resident of Oak Lawn said that he has two adult sons and if they were arrested while possessing a gun, they would have to deal with him personally besides the police.

“The mother (of Abuatelah) should be thanking the police,” he said. “Because if he got to his pistol and shot someone, he would never see the light of day.”

The heavy toll that crime takes and the lack of support weighs heavily on police, according to Ryan Clancy, of Chicago’s Mount Greenwood neighborhood.

He said that toll was too much for his sister, Patricia “Patsy” Swank, 29, a Chicago police officer who committed suicide last month. The officer was a graduate of St. Catherine of Alexandria School in Oak Lawn.

“There is a huge lack of respect today,” Clancy said. “Everyone wants to talk but no one is listening. I applaud the Oak Lawn Police Department and Oak Lawn for the backing of the police officers.”

While the majority of the speakers supported the officers, one man said the actions of the police were intolerable.

“I was outraged by the video and there was no excuse that the police had for beating a child,” he said. “The officers should be fired immediately. And this is not an isolated incident. There have been many lawsuits filed against the (Oak Lawn) police. You (the Oak Lawn Village Board) are covering up for the police force.”

At this point, Trustee William “Bud” Stalker (5th) became angry and lashed out at the speaker. Mayor Terry Vorderer intervened to allow the speaker to finish his comments.

However, later Vorderer said he was not pleased with the comments about a long list of alleged lawsuits against Oak Lawn police.

“In all my time on the force, I have never seen any reports of lawsuits against the police,” said Vorderer, a retired Oak Lawn police officer.

Village Manager Tom Phelan appreciated the support from the majority of people at the meeting, but was critical of some of the few negative comment he heard.

“Our police department is above approach,” Phelan said. “We are not going to tolerate it. We had 50 shootings in Chicago last weekend.”

Trustee Alex Olejniczak (2nd) said there appears to be a lack of respect for police officers and authority.

Olejniczak mentioned that Gov. J.B. Pritzker attended the ceremony honoring Chicago Police Officer Ella French, who was shot and killed a year ago after a traffic stop. Olejniczak believes the governor is hypocritical because he supported and signed off on the SAFE-T Act last year that he believes is too soft on offenders.

“We back our police force 100%,” Olejniczak said. “When a police officer pulls you over, listen and stop. Whatever happened to respect in our society? We, as a Board, support our police.”

Vorderer added that he was pleased that so many residents came out in support of police.

“I am proud of the Village of Oak Lawn,” Vorderer said. “I have been a resident for 75 years and they are my kind of people.”

4 Comments

  1. Dan Kridler on August 13, 2022 at 8:18 pm

    I wasn’t a child when I joined the military at age 17. I had just turned 18 when I was sent to Thailand in ‘75 as a Law Enforcement Specialist. Next stop was Korea. He’s not a child. If he wants to carry a gun, join the military and make something of yourself. Evidently your Mommy couldn’t.



  2. John Henry on August 14, 2022 at 1:04 am

    Yep stop the shooting and the carjacking oh the Police were too ruff tell that to the woman that didn’t get carjackied with her kids .. police did great job!



  3. Ahmad hezayin on August 14, 2022 at 10:06 am

    Oak lawn police are racists i lived in oak lawn back late 90s my kids attended oak lawn Comunity high school every time they saw my oldest son they pulled him over and searched his car for no reason. But in this case I’m not saying that is angle he is wrong but he didn’t deserve to be beaten like if you look at the video beating took place after he was pinned down before the gun discovered police didn’t know he had a gun it is police brutality and they should be held accountable



  4. George Musielak on August 14, 2022 at 9:29 pm

    As an retired police officer of 25 years and a resident of Oak Lawn for 20 plus years, I can empathize with the the mother of the lad. However, Mrs. Abuatelah should be thankful her son isn’t a memory. The Oak Lawn officers acted professionally. It only takes a few pounds of pressure to pull the trigger.
    I speak of a terrifying experience I had. Arresting a thirteen year old at gun point after an armed robbery he committed at a local quick mart gas station.
    The long and short of it. If he had the nerve to carry a loaded firearm, there are consequence. He was fortunate not to have been shot. By anyone.



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