Muhammad Sankari, lead organizer of the Arab American Action Network, speaks to a crowd of protesters, many of them carrying placards with a photo of Murod Kurdi, who was struck and killed by a passing motorist last month near his home. The rally was held Wednesday night outside Oak Lawn Municipal Hall. (Photos by Joe Boyle)

Muhammad Sankari, lead organizer of the Arab American Action Network, speaks to a crowd of protesters, many of them carrying placards with a photo of Murod Kurdi, who was struck and killed by a passing motorist last month near his home. The rally was held Wednesday night outside Oak Lawn Municipal Hall. (Photos by Joe Boyle)

Family demands independent investigation of Oak Lawn man’s death

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reporter fadia muhamad photo 7 6

Murod Kurdi’s mother, Fadia Muhamad (center), and his brother, Suphi Kurdi, attended a protest Wednesday night outside Oak Lawn Municipal Hall. They were among nearly 100 protesters calling for an independent investigation in Murod Kurdi’s death after he was struck by a passing motorist near his Oak Lawn home. 

By Joe Boyle

Protesters are demanding an independent investigation into the death of an Oak Lawn man who was struck and killed last month by a passing motorist near the front of his home.

Murod Kurdi, 28, was reportedly standing alongside his parked car near his home in the 9100 block of South Tulley Avenue on June 5. Kurdi was then struck by a driver of the vehicle who, according to published reports, continued driving for a block before stopping.

The Cook County Medical Examiner’s office said Kurdi died from his injuries at about 8:10 p.m. June 6 at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn.

During a protest and a news conference Wednesday night outside the Oak Lawn Municipal Hall, community activists, relatives and friends of Kurdi spoke out over the response of police following the incident. They said the 27-year-old woman who allegedly struck Kurdi was given a speeding ticket but police let her go after that.

“With the incident that took place last year with Hadi and what took place again with Murod, there is a pattern of the Oak Lawn police that needs to be investigated,” said Muhammad Sankari, lead organizer for the Arab American Action Network. “The biggest travesty here is the decision by the Oak Lawn police to just give her a speeding ticket and then let her go. The police officer who was responsible for that has to be held accountable. And any other officer responsible should also be held accountable.”

Sankari believes that Arabs have been mistreated by Oak Lawn police, referring to the incident last summer in which then 17-year-old Hadi Abuatelah was in a vehicle that was pulled over because officers said they could smell cannabis. The driver was searched with no incident but Abuatelah ran after exiting the car and was later tackled at 95th and McVicker.

He held on to a shoulder bag and officers began using force to prevent him from opening it, police said. Officer Patrick O’Donnell reportedly struck Abuatelah several times in the head. Police said they found a gun in his accessory bag.

Police Chief Daniel Vittorio said the officers were right to use force because they feared they could have been shot.

Sankari and other protesters don’t buy that defense, stating that Abuatelah was targeted because of his Palestinian descent.

In the incident that resulted in Kurdi’s death, Sankari said he was frustrated because the police have provided no information about the incident and is concerned when the truth will come out.

“Right now, we don’t know what to think,” Sankari said. “She refused to take a breathalyzer test, which is her right. But we just don’t know what is going on. That’s why we have to have an independent investigation. We can’t trust the Oak Lawn police to do this.”

The protest, which drew nearly 100 people, began with a series of chants including, “What do we want? Justice. When do we want it? Now.”

Vittorio has not commented on the incident other than saying the matter is under investigation. The village had put out a statement in which they said the matter was under investigation and that the “village sympathizes with the loss of life, and expresses its condolences to Mr. Kurdi’s family.”

“We say Murod’s name over and over,” Sankari told the crowd. “Because the Oak Lawn police tried to bury his name. It is about Murod and all of us. The Oak Lawn Police Department is corrupt.

“We need an independent investigation,” Sankari added. “We need justice against these racist cops who abuse us.”

Nadiah Alayafair, youth program coordinator for the Arab American Action Network, also said the woman who refused a breathalyzer and sobriety test, should not have been allowed to leave after just receiving speeding ticket.

She was also upset about the arrest of Abuataleh, who she said was beaten by the three officers involved.

“The three officers should be held accountable,” Alayafair said. “We must send a message that this ends now.”

Other speakers noted that protests will continue before Oak Lawn Police and Fire Commission Board meetings. They will also be attending additional hearings for O’Donnell, who was indicted on counts of aggravated battery and official misconduct earlier this year regarding the arrest last summer of Abuatelah.

Fadia Muhamad, Kurdi’s mother, and brother, Suphi Kurdi, attended the protest on Wednesday. They did not speak. However, Muhamad had previously said the police mishandled this case and have requested to see the police report. Muhamad said she has not received the report.

Her attorney, David Petrich, has previously stated that the woman involved in the incident had a couple of drinks at a local bar and had a 4-year-old child in the vehicle.

1 Comment

  1. Catherine Bourke on July 7, 2023 at 6:16 pm

    Isn’t it the law if you refuse a breathalyzer, you get arrested? It sounds like the police didn’t want extra paperwork – i.e. a 4 year old in the car that the police would need to find someone to come pickup the child.
    It sounds like the driver should be charged with murder. The police are lucky the driver didn’t murder another person while she was driving home.



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