Oak Lawn resisted outside investigation into arrest of teen captured on video, state police documents show (2024)

Oak Lawn police rejected an offer from state police to conduct an independent review of a July 2022 arrest of a teen, in which police video shows the youth being hit multiple times while pinned facedown on a village street, state police records show.

The department did cooperate with an outside investigation after the Cook County state’s attorney’s office requested it, though the three officers involved refused to be interviewed by the state police investigators.

State police documents also show its investigators expressed concern the state’s attorney’s office sought an indictment against one officer before its formal review of the detailed report it turned over to the state’s attorney Jan. 16.

In a March 3 letter to Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, state police director Brendan Kelly said bypassing the review was “a departure from well-established practice of over 20 years” regarding cases investigated by state police public integrity task force.

The documents, totaling nearly 400 pages, were provided to the Daily Southtown in response to a public records request, and came after state police initially denied a request for the report. At least half the pages, many apparently photos of the scene or of the teen at the hospital, were completely blocked out, with portions of the other pages, including names of people interviewed, redacted.

The documents show state police sought out more video of the arrest by inquiring of area businesses and a condominium complex. Much of the video viewed did not show any of the events, but a video from a camera at the McDonald’s, steps from where the arrest occurred, did show the arrest, state police said. That video has not been made public.

The reports also recount interviews with witnesses whose names were blacked out. One witness told state police he asked an Oak Lawn officer to calm down “because the Officer was very irate. The Officer stated he was not irate and stated, ‘Never run from the police,'” the report states.

After returning to the youth and the discovery of a gun in the sack he was carrying, the officer returned and told the witness “You see he had a gun, and you wanted me to calm down,” and then said “Get outta here,” the witness said, according to the report.

Another witness who made a video of the arrest said she saw the initial pursuit including the youth darting across 95th Street, but said the teen slowed down as if he was giving up. She said she never saw the young man reach for any weapon.

Oak Lawn police do not wear body cameras, but dashboard cameras in squad cars showed the youth on the ground with three officers restraining him.

Oak Lawn resisted outside investigation into arrest of teen captured on video, state police documents show (1)

Officer Patrick O’Donnell was indicted by a grand jury Feb. 14 on charges including aggravated battery and official misconduct. He has pleaded not guilty.

The indictment alleges O’Donnell struck a then 17-year-old Bridgeview teen more than 10 times in the face and head as he was lying face down in the street during the July 27 arrest, which was captured on video and prompted large protests.

O’Donnell has been with the department since December 2014 and is also named in a federal lawsuit, along with fellow officers Brandon Collins and Mark Hollingsworth, filed by the teen’s family last August, just days after the arrest. The village and police Chief Daniel Vittorio are also named as defendants in the lawsuit, which alleges the officers “engaged in extreme and outrageous conduct” in connection with the arrest.

The defendants have asked for an indefinite stay in the civil case, citing O’Donnell’s indictment, and the judge in the matter has not yet issued a ruling.

Vittorio said Wednesday he could not comment on the decision to initially reject the state police offer of an independent probe, citing that lawsuit and the indictment of O’Donnell.

The arrest began as a traffic stop, with the teen, a back seat passenger, running from police during a preliminary search by an officer outside the vehicle.

The three officers were not interviewed by state police but did file supplemental reports.

O’Donnell, the officer who first pursued and tackled the teen on the street near 95th Street and McVicker Avenue, said, in a supplemental report he “told the subject numerous times to stop and get on the ground to which he refused and did not comply. While chasing after the subject, I observed him grab and hold the cross body bag numerous times as if a heavy object, such as a firearm, were concealed inside it.”

Once the teen was on the ground, “I told the subject multiple times to place his hands behind his back to which he did not comply. I attempted to grab the subject’s arm from underneath his body but his arm was tense and pulled in toward his body away from me. I observed both of his hands clutching the cross body bag underneath him. I observed his hand move toward the top of the cross body bag as if to retrieve a weapon concealed within it,” O’Donnell wrote in the supplemental report.

“I immediately began punching the subject in the face multiple times with a closed fist in an attempt to gain compliance and/or control of the subject’s arms from underneath his body, loosen his grip from the cross body bag, redirect his arms from the bag to a defensive position near his face, and prevent him from potentially gaining access to a weapon concealed within the cross body bag,” the officer wrote in the report.

From a satchel slung over the teen’s torso, police recovered a Raven Arms .25-caliber semi-automatic handgun with three rounds in the magazine, according to police.

The teen is charged as a juvenile with felonies including resisting arrest and unlawful use of a weapon.

The teen was interviewed by state police when he was at Advocate Christ Medical Center recovering from injuries including a broken nose, bruising across his face and body, and internal bleeding near his brain and forehead, which his lawyers say were caused by the officers.

He told an investigator he never attempted to hold onto the bag, keep it away from officers or try to reach inside the bag, the top of which was closed with a zipper, according to the state police report.

The youth told the investigator he was told by the officers to show his hands, but that he could not comply because his hands were pinned underneath his body.

State police said they were contacted about the arrest a day later by the Cook County state’s attorney’s office, and offered that same day to conduct the independent use-of-force investigation but said Vittorio told them July 29 his department would not request the assistance of the state police public integrity task force, according to documents.

Oak Lawn resisted outside investigation into arrest of teen captured on video, state police documents show (2)

The report states Gerald Vetter, chief of Oak Lawn police investigations division, initially did not pass their offer to investigate to Vittorio, with Vetter telling them “any concerns by the public would be allayed by a press conference OLPD had scheduled for later that day.”

At that news conference, the day after the teen’s arrest, Vittorio said the officers who pursued the youth feared for their safety, believing he had a weapon, and that deadly force on their part would have been justified.

State police Master Sgt. Christopher Burke, in a narrative included in the report, said he spoke with Vittorio about the offer of activating the public integrity task force, and told the chief the state’s attorney’s office “had expressed concerns about the incident to me and that I felt it likely that they would request an investigation.”

Burke said he told Vittorio that a request for a public integrity task force investigation “did not imply any accusation of wrongdoing on the part of any officer, and that if the officers’ use of force was justified an independent investigation would increase the public’s trust in that result.”

He said Vittorio told him that should the state’s attorney’s office request an outside investigation, the Oak Lawn department would cooperate.

Burke said he notified the state’s attorney of the chief’s response, with the state’s attorney then asking for the state police investigation.

In his March 3 letter to Foxx, Brendan Kelly notes that an agent with the public integrity task force was notified by the state’s attorney’s office Feb. 9 that a decision had been made to charge one of the Oak Lawn officers and asked the task force to arrest the officer before Feb. 16. “The reason for this date remains unclear” to the task force, Kelly wrote.

He said state police informed the state’s attorney that a final review with the state police major case counsel had been scheduled for Feb. 15, and asked that charges not be filed until after that review. On Feb. 14, state police were notified that O’Donnell had been indicted earlier in the day.

“I do not write to quarrel with or critique the charging decision made in this matter. As a former State’s Attorney having reviewed and charged thousands of cases, I am keenly aware the final charging decision rests within the sound discretion of the State’s Attorney’s Office, and that authority is sacrosanct,” Kelly wrote to Foxx. “Rather, my concern rests squarely with the process lacking some of the standard involvement or input from the investigators who conducted the thorough investigation requested by the (state’s attorney).”

As state police director, Kelly wrote “I am narrowly focused on the fact the probable cause decision to swear out a complaint is an exclusive police function. A police officer must believe, based upon the evidence developed in their investigation, that there is probable cause an offense was committed before they attest to the charge(s) in a complaint.”

State police had initially turned down the Southtown’s request for documents pertaining to the investigation, noting it had not yet been completed or turned over to the state’s attorney, although a filing in the teen’s lawsuit indicated otherwise.


Oak Lawn resisted outside investigation into arrest of teen captured on video, state police documents show (2024)
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