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Police officer facing charges after kneeling on Black teen’s back

Police officer facing charges after kneeling on Black teen’s back

A Chicago police officer is facing charges after a video of him kneeling on a Black teen's back emerged.

A Chicago police officer is facing charges of official misconduct and aggravated battery after video footage appeared to show him kneeling on a Black teen's back.

Police sergeant Michael Vitellaro was off duty when the incident occurred on 1 July and says he was out searching for his son's bike, which he had heard was stolen and had been seen at a nearby Starbucks.

Driving his son to the coffee shop, the off-duty police officer saw his son's bike propped up against a pillar and decided to wait to see if the thief came back for it.

Video footage taken by the teenager's friends appears to show the off-duty police officer kneeling on the boy's back.
NBC News

Antonio Romanucci, an attorney for the teen's family, said the teenager was out with friends on that evening on his own bike and moved a bike that was blocking his path.

It turned out to be the one Vitellaro had been watching out for, and the off-duty police officer confronted the 14-year-old over it.

According to a criminal complaint filed on 18 August, Vitellaro 'grabbed' the boy's arm and 'pushed' him to the ground. The complaint says the off-duty police officer restrained the teenager by kneeling on his back.

Video footage from businesses in the area indicates that the boy was not the person who stole the bike as CCTV footage shows it was already there when he arrived.

Romanucci argued that the incident was an example of racial profiling, the boy who the police officer was kneeling on is Puerto Rican.

He said: "This is a clear-cut case of racial profiling. The off-duty officer is white and the boy was the only person of colour in a group of teenagers.

Eventually the teenager's friends are able to get him back on his feet.
NBC News

"Chicago police have a history of racial bias and they continue to racially profile people, even outside of Chicago, and that culture permeates officers’ lives."

Footage taken by the teen's friends shows them trying to get the police officer to stop kneeling on the 14-year-old's back.

Nicole Nieves, the teen's mother, said she'd spoken to her children about them being 'faced with unfair, unjust biases' but that 'nothing truly prepares you for this day'.

She said: "As parents, we are heartbroken over the abuse of power and excessive force used against our son. In a world where it already feels unsafe to go to the mall, to attend school, to enjoy a parade with family, the last thing we need is any reason to fear those who stand to protect us."

Investigations into the incident were launched by Park Ridge police, the Chicago Police Department and the Civilian Office of Police Accountability.

Vitellaro turned himself over to police on Thursday (18 August), he will be due in court on 8 September.

Chicago Police Department confirmed in a statement that he had been 'relieved of police powers effective August 17', and said they could not comment further on the matter due to an internal investigation.

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Featured Image Credit: NBC News

Topics: Chicago, Crime, Police, US News