A Chicago Police Department sergeant was arrested on a felony charge weeks after a video of him kneeling on the back of a Puerto Rican teenager went viral, authorities say.
Michael Vitellaro turned himself in to police Thursday in Park Ridge, a Chicago suburb, the department said in a press release. The former sergeant also faces charges of misconduct.
Vitellaro’s arrest followed a frustrating six weeks for the parents of 14-year-old Josh Nieves as they fought to raise awareness of the incident through a petition that has garnered more than 1,500 signatures and regular updates on Facebook as of Thursday afternoon.
Video of the incident went viral over the weekend of July 4th. It showed Vitellaro kneeling Nieves straight into the teen’s back in front of a Starbucks. Surrounding the two were Nieves’ friends, who argued with Vitellaro until the 49-year-old reluctantly let the teenager go.
The teen’s mother, Nicole Nieves, described what had led to the incident in a series of social media posts in July. She said her son, who already had his own bike, moved an abandoned bike that was blocking the sidewalk in front of the Starbucks. Vitellaro spotted her son riding a bike and — despite being off-duty and outside the Chicago Police Department’s jurisdiction — rushed to grab Nieve’s wrist and “punch” him to the ground, believing he was trying to steal the bike.
“Hands off him,” Nieves’ friends can be heard in the video.
Nicole Nieves said video of the incident showed her son’s shoe flying off as it was being taken down. She says the video also shows the bike Nieves owned right next to him, suggesting he didn’t need to steal a bicycle.
“No shoes, knees back, gasping for air, arms crossed — pinned down by a white, unidentified Chicago police officer,” she wrote in a post.
Nieves was eventually freed without injury, but his mother says he was devastated after the incident.
“One minute you’re cooking dinner … the next you get a call from your 14-year-old son who, in tears of hysterics, stumbles over his words and says, ‘Mom, please come and pick me up,'” Nieves wrote.
Nicole Nieves said she rushed through closed streets to the Starbucks to see her son, whom she described as “a brown boy with Afro hair” standing in “a sea of light faces.”
“Confused. Crying. Terrified. Shocked,” wrote Nicole Nieves, describing her son.
Vitellaro has since been “relieved of his police powers,” Fox 32 reported.
The Citizens Police Data Project, which tracks police misconduct in Chicago, says Vitellaro has had four complaints of use of force in his 22 years with the department — more than 63 percent of other officers.
The Chicago Police Department has not issued a public statement regarding the incident or subsequent arrest, nor did the department immediately respond to an email from The Daily Beast to confirm Vitellaro’s employment status and previous complaints against him.
“That was wrong,” posted Nicole Nieves. “And our family will not accept that.”
https://www.thedailybeast.com/chicago-cop-michael-vitellaro-charged-after-viral-video-showed-him-kneeling-on-teen?source=articles&via=rss Chicago police officer Michael Vitellaro has been charged after viral video showed him kneeling on a teenager