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Oak Lawn police officer pleads not guilty to battering teen

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reporter Patrick ODonnell

Patrick O’Donnell

By Joe Boyle

Oak Lawn Police Officer Patrick O’Donnell had plenty of supporters with him on the morning of March 1.

O’Donnell, 32, arrived at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse in Chicago surrounded by members of the Oak Lawn Police Department and family to face charges of two counts of aggravated battery and two counts of official misconduct in connection with an incident that left a 17-year-old teen hospitalized last summer.

The Oak Lawn officer, who was indicted last month, pled not guilty and was ordered by Judge Domenica Stephenson to pay a $75,000 I-Bond. He was allowed to leave the courthouse on his own recognizance.

O’Donnell left the way he came in; surrounded by Oak Lawn police officers and family.

O’Donnell and the officers had no comment as they left the courthouse. He is still employed with the department and is on administrative duty.

The officer is accused of punching Hadi Abuatelah repeatedly in the head after the teen fled from police following a traffic stop near 95th and Southwest Highway in Oak Lawn on July 27. Police initially pulled over the car because they said they could smell marijuana coming from the vehicle.

The driver complied to a pat down and police then asked a passenger in the back seat to exit the vehicle. The passenger — later identified at Abuatelah — had an accessory bag draped across his shoulder. After exiting the vehicle, Abuatelah ran, according to police.

He was tackled to the ground near 95th and McVicker. Oak Lawn Police Chief Daniel Vittorio said the teen was given verbal commands and did not comply.

“They (police) feared for their safety and he would not release the bag,” Vittorio said during a news conference later that week.

The teen was taken into custody and a gun was discovered in his bag, Vittorio said. The 25mm pistol was loaded with three rounds of ammunition, according to Vittorio.

Police said Abuatelah also had a THC vape cartridge in his possession and admitted smoking it earlier.

But controversy soon erupted after police provided dash-cam video of the incident. A citizen also had video of the confrontation. Two of the officers were seen striking the teen in the head and along one of his legs. Vittorio said that it was necessary to pin down the subject and prevent him from opening his bag.

The teen continued to reach for the bag until a third officer shocked him with a Taser, which Vittorio said stopped him from pulling out the weapon.

O’Donnell was charged because he was seen in the video punching Abuatelah in the head. According to court documents, he struck Abuatelah in the head over 10 times. Vittorio said the actions of the three officers was necessary because the teen had a gun.

Abuatelah was taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center and treated for facial abrasions, a fractured nose and pelvis, and swelling of the brain, according to court documents.

Abuatelah has been charged as a juvenile with felony aggravated unlawful use of a weapon and resisting arrest. His case is still pending.

His parents have filed a civil rights lawsuit against the Oak Lawn officers.

“What concerns me is a (17-year-old) running around with a gun,” Vittorio said.

Members of the Arab American Action Network, Rainbow PUSH Coalition and other organizations viewed the police conduct differently.

While O’Donnell and the Oak Lawn police had no comment after last week’s hearing, Muhammad Sankari, a representative of the Arab American Action Network, had plenty to say outside of the courtroom.

“If officers are trained that while two other adults are restraining a child, repeatedly punch them in the face, you grab their hair and you repeatedly punch them in the face and you break their nose and you fracture their pelvis and you cause internal bleeding in their brain, what is wrong with the police in this state? That’s unacceptable,” Sankari said.

Sankari said that protests will continue until the two other officers are also charged and all three are fired.

Opponents are angry with the Oak Lawn police because they claim the teen was targeted only because he is of Arab descent.

Members of the organization and other groups protested at the Oak Lawn Police and Fire Commission meeting on March 1. The meeting was stopped by board members after some speakers used their scheduled time to show the video of the incident. Other people at the meeting became upset and demanded that the video not be shown.

Board members then stopped the meeting because they said they were unable to conduct business.

While the Oak Lawn police did not initially respond to media requests, the village put out a written statement later in the week.

“The Village of Oak Lawn has received multiple inquiries related to the recent indictment of Officer O’Donnell since it first became public,” according to the statement. “Unfortunately, beyond what we first learned about it in the media two weeks ago, we haven’t received any information about the indictment, despite making multiple requests.”

Also mentioned in the statement was that the village contacted the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office multiple times for additional information and received no response.

“We also contacted the state police to ask for a copy of their report, but they referred us back to the Cook County State’s Attorney who, again, hasn’t responded to or even acknowledged our several inquiries,” according to the statement.

“Our only hope is that seeking justice and applying fairness are the only motivators involved in this matter,” the statement concluded.

O’Donnell has been an Oak Lawn police officer since 2014. He and his wife have two children. The Oak Lawn Police Department named him Officer of the Year in 2020. He was honored with an award at a village board meeting that year.

“I’m proud to work alongside the men and women of this department,” O’Donnell said during that meeting.

O’Donnell is scheduled to again appear at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse on April 6.

6 Comments

  1. John Quinn Mucker on March 8, 2023 at 7:39 pm

    Not enough is said about this “child” possessing a loaded semi-automatic weapon on the streets of Oak Lawn. What carnage did Officer O’Donnell prevent.
    The Arab community which is protesting alleged police misconduct seems to be oblivious to the danger this “child” represented to Oak Lawn and its residents.



  2. Barb Bly on March 8, 2023 at 11:09 pm

    Couldn’t agree more. Officer O’Donnell was doing his job. It’s a shame that nobody respects nor listens to an officer who is simply trying to protect and defend himself. I’m sorry that police officers are no longer respected or a figure of authority. God bless this country



  3. Glenn Harms on March 9, 2023 at 6:57 am

    The term child is used too loosely. This was not a child but a 17 year old acting as an adult. If this 17 year old shot one of your family members it would be a different story. You would be crying that the police didn’t do enough. Let the police do their job and get criminals off the streets.



  4. Pat Flanigan on March 9, 2023 at 1:48 pm

    As I sit here watching the coverage of the funeral for the Chicago Police Officer that was Shot and Killed I can’t help but wonder why people are so blind to criminal activity! As sad as I am this officer gave his life to protect the citizens of Chicago, I’m as happy that Officer O’Donnell of Oak Lawn kept us safe and didn’t get shot himself. Until parents open their eyes to the possibility their child is no longer a child but a Man Illegally wandering the neighborhood with a Loaded Gun these issues will continue. If the parents see protecting the chidren and adults from an individual toting a loaded handgun the crime, the problem seems to not be Abuatelah totally, but his parents for ignoring the facts! Stop this insane action, discipline your son, and let O’Donnell get back to work protecting us from the criminal element in our town. Please support our Oak Lawn Police because their job is getting harder and harder to do with this “New Justice” that protects only the Criminal……



  5. Nahhhhh on March 10, 2023 at 6:12 am

    As I see how racist this city is entrenched in I can’t wait to move the hell out. It’s only okay for 17 year old WHITE kid to have a gun right? Kyle Rittenhouse was 17 and he’s “an American hero” as I make jerk-off motions. Stop kidding yourselves and come to terms with what’s realistically happening. Y’all are racist to your core and don’t want anything good to happen to anyone who is any other color than transparent. Love, k. Patterson the least racist Irish person in this city apparently.



    • Mateo on March 15, 2023 at 8:33 am

      Troll. What makes you think that minorities in Oaklawn want 17 year olds running around with loaded guns?



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