Chicago police sergeant charged after kneeling on back of 14-year-old Puerto Rican boy in arrest video
Sgt. Michael Vitellaro, who was off-duty at the time of the incident on July 1, faces charges of official misconduct and aggravated battery.
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At around 5:15 p.m. on July 1, 2022, Chicago Police Sgt. Michael Vitellaro was off-duty when he heard his 13-year-old son’s bike had been stolen from Park Ridge Library and it was spotted in front of a Starbucks just down road in Chicago’s Northwest suburbs.
He went to investigate, and when he arrived on the scene, found his son’s bike and the 14-year-old son of Angel and Nicole Nieves riding his own bike nearby with a group of friends.
Per Assistant State Attorney Mary McDonnell, who spoke during a court hearing on Thursday, Aug. 18, the Nieves’ son touched the bike belonging Vitellaro’s son, and the off-duty sergeant grabbed him by the forearm, threw him to the ground and proceeded to kneel on his back.
The 14-year-old’s friends filmed the altercation and intervened, removing Vitellaro from his back and allowing him to stand up.
“He’s taking my son’s bike,” Vitellaro is heard saying in the video.
“No he’s not,” the 14-year-old’s friends shout as they pull their friend from the ground.
“As parents, we are heartbroken over the abuse of power and excessive force used against our son,” said Nicole Nieves at a press conference in July. “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.”
Two charges finally dropped on Aug. 18 against Vitellaro, for official misconduct and aggravated battery.
The sergeant was relieved of his police powers on Wednesday, Aug. 17, a Chicago police spokesperson told the Chicago Sun-Times. The police department is also conducting its own investigation into the incident along with the Civilian Office of Police Accountablity, a civilian council Chicago established in 2016 to review cases of police misconduct.
After being removed from the 14-year-old’s back, Vitellaro also called 911, identifying himself as a cop. When officers arrived, he identified the teen as a bike thief, but surveillance from the store showed his son’s stolen bike there before the 14-year-old arrived.
At the press conference back in July, the Nieves’ family attorney also said the 14-year-old touched the bike because it was blocking his path. Attorney Antonio Romanucci also called the incident a “clear-cut case of racial profiling,” considering the boy is Puerto Rican and “was the only person of color in a group of teenagers.”
Vitellaro is white.
After announcing the charges against him, Judge Anthony Calabrese ordered Vitellaro released on a $25,000 recognizance bond, meaning he didn’t have to post anything to get out. His next court date is Sept. 6.
“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,” the Nieves family said in a statement.
They are also said to be preparing their own lawsuit.