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Not too late to get on the right path

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By Ray Hanania

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An armed teenager who had a run-in with police in Oak Lawn back in 2022 has been arrested again, this time in a connection with a robbery and a brutal beating of an innocent man who was exercising at an Orland Park gym on Dec.10.

One of the three suspects involved in the brutal and violent beating crime was Hadi Abuatelah.

You remember Abuatelah, who fled Oak Lawn police in July 2022 with a loaded gun — a 25 mm semi-automatic weapon with three live rounds of ammunition — after a vehicle stop.

Police had pulled a car over and asked the driver, an Arab and Muslim, to exit the car. He did without incident. He was treated with respect by Oak Lawn police. They then asked Abuatelah, who was 17 at the time and in the back seat–holding a bag with a loaded weapon in it, to leave the bag on the back seat and exit the car.

RayHanania

Ray Hanania

Abuatelah got out of the back seat but grabbed the weapon and ran, according to reports. Police caught him blocks away, forcibly bringing him to the ground to disarm him. Abuatelah refused to release the weapon, clutching it tightly with both hands and tucking it under his stomach, Oak Lawn police said.

The gun bag clearly had a dangerous weapon in it that had only one purpose; to inflict damage and harm.

A witness I interviewed who saw Abuatelah run past her car while ordering a sandwich at the Hakuna Matata restaurant drive-thru, 6035 W. 95th St., said it was clear the bag had a heavy weapon in it.

Police were left with no choice but to use force, punching Abuatelah to release the weapon.

Arab and Muslim activists rushed to Abuatelah’s side, screaming anti-Arab racism and Islamophobia. They said nothing about a teenager driving around neighborhoods with a loaded weapon, or even wondered what he was doing with the weapon.

No one, not even his parents, seemed to care Abuatelah was at an important crossroads in life where he faced an important choice, to do good or do bad.

Had Abuatelah been punished by his parents, rather than championed by the community, he might have learned the right lesson that would have put him on a path of respectability and not excuse his earlier gun-related crime.

Instead, his parents and protestors turned him into a “hero” with a gun who refused to listen to police.

Sure enough, the wrong lesson put him on the wrong road, teaching him he can commit crimes without being held accountable. He could hide behind false claims of anti-Arab racism and Islamophobia, at the expense of diluting other instances of real anti-Arab racism and Islamophobia.

Now 19, Abuatelah was with two other Arab Muslim friends Dec. 10 when they got into an argument with another man at Life Time Fitness in Orland Park.

Abuatelah, with the Oak Lawn lesson still fresh in his mind, and his two cronies, violently assaulted the man, kicking and punching him in the face and body numerous times while the victim was on the ground, according to Orland Park police.

How ironic. The victim was on the ground. He wasn’t clutching a gun like police said Abuatelah was. This brutalized victim had a cellphone that one of Abuatelah’s pals stole from the victim.

Abuatelah’s gang fled. The victim was taken to a hospital with painful bruises and a dislocated shoulder.

Weeks later, on Jan. 4, Abuatelah was arrested in his Bridgeview home. Police arrested Sami Hirmiz, 19, of Oak Lawn. An arrest warrant was issued for Nooh Masoud, 18, of Hickory Hills. The three culprits face robbery, aggravated battery and mob action charges.

After the July 2022 Oak Lawn arrest of Abuatelah, activists in the Arab and Muslim community immediately protested. They called a press conference with officials of the Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Muslim American lawyer, the mother, and with the Arab American Action Network (AAAN), who all insisted the beating was “another example” of “police brutality” and “racist targeting” of a minority, this time an Arab Muslim.

They brushed aside the “alleged infraction” of having a loaded semi-automatic gun in his possession, falsely claiming he was “not resisting.” Fleeing, clutching the gun and refusing to release it is “resisting” by the way.

Did you see any of the protesters, CAIR, or even his parents and relatives come to his defense this time? Blaming police for his actions?

No. Abuatelah is clearly on life’s wrong path.

A good start would be to apologize to the Oak Lawn police and Officer Patrick O’Donnell, who took the gun away from Abuatelah back in July 2022.

But that’s not a lesson extremists teach their children these days.

Ray Hanania is a former Chicago City Hall reporter and award-winning columnist. Visit hanania.com for more opinion.

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