An off-duty Chicago Police officer has been charged for pinning a teenage boy to the ground outside of a Starbucks at the beginning of July, believing the child was stealing his son’s bike. The parents of the minor pushed for the cop to face felony counts of battery, stating the official racially profiled their son.
On Thursday, Aug. 18, Park Ridge Police Department released a press release stating the Cook County State’s Attorney has charged Michael Vitellaro, 49, with two felonies, misconduct, and aggravated battery for his violent interaction on July 1 with Josh Nieves, 14, on the 100-block of South Northwest Highway.
Vitellaro, a department sergeant, was captured on video approaching, verbally abusing, and assaulting the boy after he touched his son’s bicycle.
The child and his friends are seen trying to convince the father the teen was moving his bike, but their witness was not enough for him. He was convinced the boy was a thief.
He shouts, “He’s taking my son’s bike.”
The kids respond, “No he’s not!”
Nicole Nieves, the boy’s mom, believes her son’s friends demonstrated a great deal of bravery and courage by standing up to the adult. The family’s attorney, Antonio Romanucci echoed those sentiments, standing with the parents during a Wednesday, Aug. 17, press conference.
He argued, “If it was not for the boys, there’s no telling what may have happened.”
The teen’s family believes the officer’s conviction and refusal to believe the kids were fueled by racial prejudice, lifting that the boy is Puerto Rican and the officer is white. The boy was also the only child of color in the gathering.
“We see the bias of an off-duty cop taking advantage of a Brown boy with Afro-hair, smaller in stature, and choosing to take the law into his own hands with physical force,” the mom said according to NBC 5. “A clear abuse of his position of authority, an authority meant to protect my son.”
Footage, posted by the boy’s mom, shows the officer pressing his knee into her son’s back outside the popular coffee shop.
In the post, the mom wrote, “We’ve talked to our 3 Puerto Rican boys about this moment for years—but you can’t emotionally prepare for this happening to your own child… then it does.”
Nieves continued to write on her Facebook post. “We can’t possibly put into words how we’re feeling—disgust, anger, frustration, outrage, fear, sadness.”
Once the charges were declared, Vitellaro turned himself in and was relieved of his police duties, as the Chicago Police Department and Civilian Office of Police Accountability have started internal investigations into the matter, ABC 7 reports.
Angel and Nicole Nieves, the teen’s parents, said in a statement, “We are extremely relieved and pleased to see charges for what happened to our son, and we thank both the Park Ridge Police, Kim Foxx, and the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office Law Enforcement Accountability Division for this important step in justice for our son.”
“We are still trying to assess the full impact of this traumatic incident on our son, who is only 14 and still processing all that happened to him,” they wrote. “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 also stated they plan to sue the officer for his conduct against their son, hoping to drill in the message best articulated by the mother: “There is absolutely no room in our community for this any unnecessary aggression toward any children at all.”