Park Ridge police investigating off-duty Chicago officer's restraint of boy
A Park Ridge couple are expressing outrage over what they say was an off-duty Chicago police officer's unwarranted and excessive restraint of their 14-year-old son during a confrontation Friday outside a Starbucks.
They and their attorneys allege racial profiling played a part in the encounter, which they say stemmed from a false claim their son was trying to steal a bicycle belonging to the officer's son. The officer is white, and their son is of Puerto Rican descent.
A cellphone video of the encounter outside the Starbucks at Northwest Highway and Euclid Avenue has gone viral since last Friday. The video begins with a man wearing a blue jacket, gray shorts and athletic shoes kneeling on the back of the prone boy and speaking on a cellphone.
Other boys argue with the man, tell him the pinned boy was not trying to steal the bicycle and quickly pull their friend off the ground.
During a news conference Wednesday, family attorney Antonio Romanucci said he believes criminal charges are warranted but also is considering civil litigation against the off-duty officer and the city of Chicago.
Romanucci said that if the other boys had not intervened, there's no way of knowing how the encounter might have ended.
"The officer used excessive force on a child," he said.
The boy's parents, Angel and Nicole Nieves, said they have lived in Park Ridge for 12 years and have experienced nothing but acceptance. They described their son as an honor-roll student and three-sport athlete.
"This is about taking a stand for what's right," Nicole Nieves said. "We stand with our son just as we would stand with your son."
Angel Nieves said that although their son was physically unharmed, he suffered great emotional distress.
Romanucci and the Nieves said the boy was trying to move a stranger's bicycle out of the way on the sidewalk so that he could get by when the confrontation occurred. They say their son's own bicycle can be seen nearby in the video.
Park Ridge police and the Chicago Civilian Office of Police Accountability have acknowledged they are investigating the incident.
"COPA is aware of an incident as reported by TMZ that occurred in Park Ridge on July 1, 2022 involving an off-duty Chicago Police Officer and are currently in the early stages of the investigation," COPA said Tuesday via Twitter, referring to a post about the encounter on the online tabloid news site. "If you or anyone you know may have information related to this incident please call our office at (312) 746-3609 or visit Chicagocopa.org."
Park Ridge police also issued a statement Tuesday saying they are committed to investigating the confrontation, and clarifying that the encounter did not involve any Park Ridge police officers or employees.
"Park Ridge police detectives have been assigned to gather all information including, statements, eyewitness reports, body camera video and business videos," the statement reads. "Starbucks store video has been requested but has not yet been provided by their corporate office. Detectives canvassed all the businesses along Prospect and Northwest Highway for additional video."
Park Ridge police said they have conferred with the Chicago Civilian Office of Police Accountability, but the two agencies are conducting parallel investigations. They intend to meet with the Cook County state's attorney's office this week to review the status of their investigation but are also seeking additional eyewitnesses and video.
Anyone who can provide such information should call Park Ridge police at (847) 318-5256.