Police in south suburban Oak Lawn are facing scrutiny after footage posted to social media showed officers striking a teenage suspect several times following a foot chase.
The 17-year-old was in a car with friends at approximately 5:30 p.m. near Southwest Highway and Austin Avenue when an officer on patrol detected the smell of burnt cannabis coming from the vehicle, which had no front license plate, police said in a news release. The officer pulled the vehicle over and directed the driver to exit, according to police. After the driver got out, officers asked the rear driver's side passenger to exit the vehicle, noting he "appeared nervous and had an accessory bag draped over his shoulder."
When asked to place his hands on the vehicle, the teen took off running, as shown in dash camera video of the incident released by the Oak Lawn Police Department. Officers attempt to apprehend the suspect near 95th Street and McVicker Avenue, but a struggle ensued when they tried to take him to the ground, police said.
The suspect grabbed his bag and tried to open it, according to police, who said the teen didn't comply when given verbal commands. Fearing the suspect was reaching for a weapon in the bag, the officers attempted to physically gain control of his hands, police said.
The video released by Oak Lawn police showed one officer hitting the teen multiple times on the legs, while another struck him near his head. Approximately one minute later, officers tased the individual and took him into custody shortly after.
A 25 mm gun, loaded with three rounds of ammunition, was discovered in the teen's bag, police said. He and an officer were both transported to Advocate Christ Medical Center due to injuries they both sustained.
Family members of the teen, identified as Hadi Abutella, spoke about the incident alongside members of the Arab American community Thursday, demanding the firing of the officers involved.
"Yesterday he was in the car with his friends. Cops attacked him and beat him to death almost," said Hadi's mother, Dena Natour. "He has fractures all over his face. He is bruised. He is in the hospital right now with a neck brace. Very traumatizing..."
Oak Lawn police defended its officers' actions, saying the subject "refused to listen to verbal commands which resulted in a physical confrontation with two officers."
"I don't think that's what matters here," an attorney representing Hadi's family said. "I think what matters here is that you have two individuals, grown, back on top of a juvenile, smashing his head into the pavement. That's what matters here."
The family's news conference took place on the same day a new report was released on Muslims in Illinois, with 53% saying they have been discriminated against or have been subject to hate crimes.
"This is a vulnerable community, hate crimes discrimination is happening, and we want to ensure that those who are meant to keep us safe are not contributing to these types of discriminatory behaviors," said Ahmed Rehab, executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations.