CHICAGO — The family of a Park Ridge teenager this week filed a civil lawsuit against the city of Chicago and an off-duty police sergeant over the officer’s use of force on the teen nearly a year earlier outside of a Starbucks.

The suit was filed on behalf of the boy, now 15, by his father, Angel Nieves. It accuses Sgt. Michael Vitellaro of eight counts, including false imprisonment, negligence, assault, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress and willful and wanton conduct.

“The misuse of force, irrational behavior, and unprovoked actions of this Chicago Police Sergeant cannot go unchecked,” Nieves said in a statement, “so we will continue to fight for our son, and, in doing so, hope to advocate for others who feel voiceless in their pursuit of justice.”

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Vitellaro was acquitted of criminal charges earlier this month at a bench trial in Skokie, where a judge found him not guilty of aggravated battery and official misconduct.

The 70-page complaint filed Tuesday in Cook County circuit court also includes five counts against the city in its capacity as Vitellaro’s boss, including negligent supervision and retention, willful and wanton conduct, respondeat superior and indemnification.

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The July 1, 2022, incident began around 5 p.m. when Vitellero’s son left his bicycle unattended in a grassy field near the northeast corner of South Prospect and Touhy avenues, according to the complaint.

The teen who would later testify that he took the cop’s son’s bike for a “joyride” then rode it to the Starbucks at 100 S. Northwest Highway, where he left it leaning up against a pillar.

Nieves’ son and his friends, at the time all heading into their freshman years at Maine South High School, arrive at the coffee shop around 2:24 p.m. — two minutes before Vitellaro shows up in his dark gray Mercedes with tinted windows, according to the complaint, which features still images captures from surveillance cameras in the area.

The footage shows Nieves’ son walking with his own bicycle, while the bicycle belonging to the son of the off-duty cop is still up against the pillar.

According to the suit, Vittelaro attempted to play detective and tried — and failed — to track down the thief who stole the bike his son left unsecured.

“Despite having identified what he believes to be his minor son’s (unattended) bicycle upon his arrival at the Starbucks coffeehouse and store located at 100 South Northwest Highway, and rather than retrieving said bicycle, [Vitellaro] deliberately chooses to wait and see whether anyone comes back for his minor son’s bicycle, so as to confront said individual,” it said.

After Vittelaro saw Nieves’ son reposition the stolen bicycle, he confronted the teen, grabs him by the arm, forces him to the ground and pins him to the ground with a knee to his back, according to the complaint and testimony at trial.

“I was shocked,” the teen testified at trial. “I thought I was going to lose my life.”

Then, for the first time, the off-duty cop calls 911 to inform suburban dispatchers of his suspicion that his son’s bike was stolen and notify them that he was forcefully detaining someone he (wrongly) believed had taken it, according to the complaint. Two witnesses testified that Vittelaro did not identify himself as a police officer until he called 911.

“This was an ambush. This child presented zero physical threat to the officer and never initiated any physical or verbal contact nor made eye contact with the unidentified and out-of-uniform officer,” said Nieves’ attorney, Antonio Romanucci. “Any reasonable officer would have known to address this situation by talking it through, not by rushing into a physical takedown in a public place.”

It is dangerous for society is an adult is permitted to grab and arrest a child based only on a hunch, Romanucci said.

“First of all, Sergeant Vitellaro did not have a reasonable suspicion that our client had stolen the bike, but even if he had, the Sergeant should have known from his training that the next step was to conduct a Terry stop and to talk with the person in question, in order to begin an investigation,” the attorney said. “Sergeant Vitellaro’s violent actions were a clear overreach, an overreaction, and an excessive use of force.”

During the trial, Cook County Circuit Judge Paul Pavlus said his verdict was influenced by the Nieves family’s decision to hire Romanucci’s personal injury law firm and solicit donations through an online fundraising platform.

Representatives of the city of Chicago declined to comment on the pending litigation, while Vitellaro’s attorney, James McKay, told Pioneer Press that the teen had not been injured or otherwise suffered any damage from the incident.

Earlier: Judge Acquits Off-Duty Chicago Cop For Pinning Teen Over Stolen Bike

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