SOUTH LOOP — Chicago police have charged two people with battery after a woman and man were recorded attacking two teens who had chalked a message of support for President-elect Joe Biden on the ground.
Lorena Petani, 64, and Lucio Zapata, 21, are facing misdemeanor battery charges in connection with the Nov. 4 incident at Chicago Women’s Park & Garden, 1801 S. Indiana Ave., a police spokesperson confirmed Monday.
Petani was charged with one misdemeanor count of battery that caused bodily harm, while Zapata was charged with two counts of battery, police officer Michelle Tannehill said.
One of the victims, Alexis Hadac, who suffered several injuries in the attack, was told by detectives Petani and Zapata are mother and son, though police officials did not immediately confirm that to Block Club.
Hadac previously questioned why no charges were filed even though she identified Petani to police as one of the people who assaulted her. Reached by phone Monday, Hadac said police informed her about the charges Saturday.
“I’m glad they are going to be held accountable,” Hadac said, but added that she hoped the charges wouldn’t amount to a “slap on the wrist.”
Hadac and Haylee Sandoval, both 19, were babysitting and playing with bubbles and chalk in the park when they wrote “Biden 2020” on the sidewalk next to a “Black Lives Matter” sign that had already been there.
Shortly after, a woman — who has since been identified as Petani — confronted them about the chalking, saying it didn’t belong in a public park.
Hadac began recording the confrontation, during which the woman can be heard saying her husband is police officer.
“This is my park,” the woman said. She then asked the teens what they pay in taxes before adding, “I’m sure I pay a lot more than you.”
The exchange grew heated, the video shows. Hadac pointed out the woman was approaching them and not wearing a mask, before the woman goes up to Hadac and strikes her.
Hadac asked Sandoval to call the police as she followed the woman and the young man, who were walking away. The woman then turned around, approached Hadac again and a struggle ensued. Screaming can be heard, and Hadac repeatedly yells for someone to call the police before the video abruptly ends.
Hadac said the woman grabbed her hair and hit her multiple times before she was able to push her off. The young man then came up to Hadac, threw her to the ground, and kicked her and punched her, she said.
Hadac said the attack left her with a mild concussion, swelling in one of her elbows and pain in her back, neck and knee.
Detectives said Petani and Zapata were served a court notice for the misdemeanor instead of being arrested, which is part of the Police Department’s response to the coronavirus pandemic under CPD’s Special Order, Hadac said.
The order states arrests for non-felony offenses that do not require a judge’s bond could be issued via a court order instead of a physical arrest.
Hadac also said she was told the duo will appear in court in December, though police did not confirm this information to Block Club.
Hadac, who is a full-time college student, said her life has been upended since the attack. She said she was recently fired from her babysitting job because the mother was concerned about her child’s safety, especially now that Hadac’s story has received media attention.
“It’s upsetting for me because it was an assault on my personal life — everything changed in my life,” she said.
Hadac said it’s become more difficult to find a part-time babysitting job now, and worries the new stay at home advisory will make it even more stressful to find a job.
Hadac also said she was grateful for the community support she’s received in the days since the attack, coming forward to help identify the people in the video, and throwing her and her friend a welcoming chalk party at the park after the incident.
“The community support has been beautiful,” she said.
Illinois classifies simple battery as a misdemeanor charge, which could result in a maximum $1,000 fine or six months to one year in jail.
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