PARK RIDGE, Ill. — On the second day of a bench trial in Skokie for a Chicago police sergeant who pinned a teenager to the ground last year in Park Ridge, police body camera was shown and several people testified.
Michael Vitellaro allegedly told Park Ridge police after the incident that his son’s bike was stolen from the library a few blocks away earlier in the day. When he saw the bike outside a Starbucks, he said he waited in his car to see who tried to get on it.
That’s when the incident began.
On Tuesday, the 15-year-old boy who recorded the incident testified, in addition to another boy at the Starbucks and two members of the Chicago Police Department.
First to take the stand was Lt. Tom Mason, who informed the court that Vitellaro called him the day of the incident concerned about the use of force he deployed on 14-year-old Josh Nieves.
Vitellaro’s attorney contends the off-duty sergeant was justified in the takedown, believing that Nieves was stealing his son’s bicycle. Under oath on June 5, the 14-year-old testified he was trying to move the bike out of the way, not steal it.
On Tuesday, prosecutors called a use of force expert from CPD to the stand. The officer testified about the training city law enforcement officials receive and how to apply it. He agreed with prosecutors that the takedown of the 14-year-old was not appropriate, given the circumstances.
The use of force expert also agreed with the defense that Vitellaro had reasonable suspicion of Nieves stealing the bike.
A 15-year-old friend of the teen who recorded the viral video testified he did so when he heard a commotion once he turned around and saw Vitellaro kneeling on Nieves’ back.
Why? Prosecutors asked.
“If something bad happened, I wanted there to be hard evidence,” the 15-year-old replied.
Under oath, the teen said he never heard Vitellaro announce himself as a CPD officer before the takedown. Though, on the night of the incident, he told a Park Ridge police officer that he did hear Vitellaro say he was a Chicago cop at some point at the scene, though the timing was unclear.
Vitellaro remains on a leave of absence from CPD amid a Civilian Office of Police Accountability investigation.
The criminal trial resumes Wednesday.