Disturbing video footage showing three police officers repeatedly punching an Illinois teenager as he lies on the ground has sparked protests against excessive force.
Police in Oak Lawn, a southwest suburb of Chicago, are defending the actions that left a 17-year-old hospitalized and say they found a loaded gun in his possession.
The incident began when police stopped a car in Oak Lawn around 5.30pm on Wednesday. Law enforcement says the vehicle had no license plates.
Chief Daniel Vittorio told a news conference Thursday that officers detected marijuana coming from the vehicle. They began to search the driver and asked a rear passenger, Hadi Abuataleh, to get out of the car.
“He seemed nervous and had a bag of props draped over his shoulder,” Mr Vittorio said.
According to the police, the teenager fled and several officers began a pursuit.
Dashcam footage released by Oak Lawn Police shows Mr Abuataleh lying on the ground as an officer punches him in the head and another kneels on his leg. Mr Vittorio said the teenager was clutching a bag, refusing to let go.
“Once they feared for their safety and they had a reasonable suspicion that he was armed with a weapon in that bag and he was not complying and was trying to open that bag, they feared for their safety,” he said.
Officers tazed and handcuffed the teenager. Inside the bag, Mr. Vittorio said he found a .25 caliber weapon with three live ammunition.
Community outrage over the incident was sparked after a passerby caught footage of the officers beating the teenager.
Myriah Deal, who posted the images on Facebook, said ABC7 she took out her mobile phone and began recording after police tackled Mr Abuataleh to the ground and began beating him.
She told the network that Mr Abuataleh was calm and did not appear to be resisting arrest.
Mr Abuataleh’s mother, Dena Natour, said CBS2 the beatings had left him hospitalized with broken backs and faces, internal bleeding and severe bruising.
“Why did the police, who weighs over 300 pounds, attack my son who weighs only 115 pounds? Why did they do what they did? she said CBS2.
“It’s not asked, it’s not necessary and it’s not acceptable. I want justice for my son. This is unacceptable.”
On Thursday, families and members of the Palestinian community demonstrated outside the Oak Lawn police station.
The family’s attorney, Zaid Abdallah, said ABC7 that the officers had used “extremely excessive and savage” force.
Mr Vittorio said the incident was under review and police had not yet interviewed Mr Abuataleh. Charges are pending.
The Independent Gt