Closing arguments heard in trial of off-duty CPD officer accused of pinning teen in Park Ridge

Chicago police officer said he believed teen had stolen his son's bike

Leah Hope Image
Wednesday, June 7, 2023
Closing arguments heard in trial of cop accused of pinning teen
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Closing arguments were heard in CPD Sgt. Michael Vitellaro's trial; the judge will rule next week after a Park Ridge teen was pinned to the ground.

SKOKIE, Ill. (WLS) -- On Wednesday, a Cook County prosecutor argued an incident the left a teen pinned to the ground didn't need to happen, and that Chicago police Sgt. Michael Vitellaro was acting out of rage, not reason.

The attorney for Vitellaro argued this was an off-duty officer trying to recover stolen property. The defense called witnesses on Wednesday, the third day of the trial.

Vitellaro's defense attorney offered evidence about the sergeant's actions on July 1 of last year.

A Chicago police instructor testified that Vitellaro "was correct and justified in using the takedown and correct and justified in trying to keep the suspect stationary."

Under cross-examination, the instructor acknowledged that Vitellaro did not identify himself before the takedown, and that Vitellaro could have held the bike in place instead of the teen, as Vitellaro was twice the teen's weight and 8 inches taller.

Previously, prosecutors called a different CPD instructor who testified the "takedown" was not necessary, and there were other ways for Vitellaro to react to a potential bike theft.

Video of the incident shows Vitellaro, who was off-duty at the time, on top of a 14 year old in Park Ridge. Vitellaro has since been stripped of his police powers and is on leave from CPD.

SEE ALSO: Off-duty Chicago police sergeant pleads not guilty after Park Ridge teen pinned to ground

The teen's mother testified Wednesday, saying she shared video of the incident on social media, and the family retained a private attorney shortly afterward to pursue civil action, as Vitellaro had not been charged criminally initially, telling the judge "We were seeking justice."

Vitellaro contends he was using proper technique to take down a bike thief suspect.

The bike in question was Vitellaro's son's bike.

Vitellaro is charged with aggravated battery and official misconduct.

Vitellaro's son testified Wednesday he left his bike unlocked at the library and later spotted his bike near a Starbucks, and he witnessed his father detain the teen, who touched his bike at the Starbucks

The teen who was pinned and some of the teens present that day have testified in this trial that the teen only touched the bike, and Vitellaro never identified himself as a police officer before or while Vitellaro had his knee on the teen's back on the ground.

The judge heard from another teenager Wednesday.

That young man admitted riding the bike in question from the library to the Starbucks, and apologized for moving the bike.

The judge will determine Vitellaro's guilty or innocence.

He is expected to share his ruling June 16.

Vitellaro did not comment leaving court Wednesday.