CHICAGO — A Park Ridge family say they intend to sue a Chicago police sergeant, alleging he pinned down their 14-year-old son and pressed his knee into the boy’s back last week.
Lawyers for the boy’s family said the sergeant — who was off-duty at the time — targeted the boy, who is of Puerto Rican heritage, as he stood among a group of white friends Friday in suburban Park Ridge. The man said the boy was stealing a bike, the lawyers said, but the family thinks the attack was racially motivated.
The boy’s parents, Nicole and Angel Nieves, called for the sergeant to be held accountable during a Wednesday morning news conference. They have not yet filed a lawsuit, but their attorney said they intend to pursue legal action.
A 45-second video released by the law firm shows the man kneeling on the boy with his knee on the teen’s back. The boy’s friends try to pull him away as they repeatedly tell the man, “Get off him.”
The man shouts “he’s taking my son’s bike!” as he begins to step away.
The Nieves family said the boy was moving a bike that had been laying on the sidewalk so he could reach his own when the man grabbed him.
“We see the bias of an off-duty cop taking advantage of our Brown boy with afro hair, smaller in stature, choosing to take the law into his own hands with physical force,” Nicole Nieves said during the news conference. “It’s a clear abuse of his position of authority.”
A Tuesday news release from the Park Ridge Police Department said the man is a Chicago police sergeant. His name has not been released.
The Civilian Office of Police Accountability, a Chicago police watchdog group, is investigating, a spokesperson said. A Chicago Police Department spokesperson said the department has opened an internal investigation, as well.
Antonio Romanucci, an attorney representing the Nieves family, said his firm is investigating before proceeding with legal action.
“This boy had done nothing wrong. He had committed no crime. He wasn’t armed. He wasn’t aggressive. He had not resisted with anybody. He was there with his bike,” Romanucci said. “The officer used excessive force on a child. He escalated a situation where no aggression was necessary at all.”
Nicole Nieves said her son is shaken but physically unharmed. He’s a straight-A student, three-sport athlete and active member of a youth ministry, she said.
The family has had conversations with their children about “the delicate balance of standing up for what’s right while also protecting our hearts and their bodies as Brown boys,” Nieves said.
The incident is a reminder of other acts of police brutality, Nieves said.
“We’re quite lucky that physically he’s unharmed, but there are a lot of others who cannot say the same,” Nieves said. “The very thought of what could have been worse is a lot to bear.”