An off-duty Chicago police sergeant has been charged in an incident where he allegedly pinned down a 14-year-old boy who he accused of trying to steal his son’s bike, according to NBC News. Sgt. Michael Vitellaro, 49, faces felony counts of official misconduct and aggravated battery.
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the boy was sitting on his bike outside of a Starbucks with his friends in Park Ridge. He moved the bike of Vitellaro’s son out of his way, which the sergeant saw as attempted theft. Per the footage, he confronted the boy, pulled his arms behind his back, and pushed him to the ground. Vitellaro had the boy in an “arm bar” while kneeing him in his back.
“He’s taking my son’s bike,” Vitellaro is heard saying in the video. “No, he’s not!” his friends respond, as they tried to pull their friend from the cop’s grasp.
More on the incident from Chicago Sun-Times:
The teen’s family released video of the confrontation days afterward and questioned whether it was racially motivated. The boy is of Puerto Rican descent, and Vitellaro is white.
The parents, Angel and Nicole Nieves, said the charges “are an accurate reflection of what we all saw on the video: An abuse of power, not just without probable cause but with zero cause.
“There is absolutely no room in our community for this type of unnecessary aggression against our children and we are grateful for today’s progress,” they said in a statement.
Vitellaro was relieved of his police powers on Wednesday, a Chicago police spokesperson said. The police department and the Civilian Office of Police Accountability are both investigating his actions.
Family attorney Mary McDonnell said after Vitellaro allowed the boy to stand up, he walked away crying, pleading for the sergeant to “get away from him.” Per the Chicago police reports, Vitellaro labeled the boy as an “offender” who wasn’t complying with directions. Officers are too quick to label Black and brown boys as threats or criminals before thoroughly assessing the situation.
Now, those boys are left wondering what about them is so suspicious, so concerning that, an officer would confront them unprovoked.
I don’t know what’s worse: the random arrests of these young boys or the lasting effect it may have on them. The boy’s mother, Nicole Nieves, said she’s unsure how the incident has impacted her son thus far. “I would say this is going to have a long-term effect on him. But so far, he’s showing some good signs of being able to process and move forward,” she told WMAQ.
Vitellaro is due back to court on Sept. 8 and the Nieves is planning on filing a lawsuit.