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Man Who Had Head Stomped By Police In Viral Video Has Bail Set At $1.15M

By Kelly Bauer | June 18, 2016 4:56pm | Updated on June 21, 2016 11:35am

COOK COUNTY CRIMINAL COURTHOUSE — A man who had his head foot stomped during an arrest by a police officer in a viral video had his bail set at $1.15 million on Saturday.

Shaquille O’Neal, 23, has been charged with aggravated battery, resisting officers and possession of a controlled substance. Prosecutors said O’Neal injured several police officers when they tried to stop and arrest him on Monday in an incident that was caught in a viral video and has prompted accusations of police brutality.

O’Neal injured more officers when they tried to arrest him a second time on Thursday, prosecutors said. But O’Neal’s attorney, Michael Oppenheimer, said the charges were trumped up by police to “cover up” what they did to O’Neal. Activists said O'Neal was part of a "political game" and had been mistreated by police.

On Monday, officers in a car saw O’Neal riding a bike in the 3900 block of West Grenshaw Street, prosecutors said. O’Neal stopped, talked to two men, looked at the officers and then walked away, leaving his bike.

Police began to chase O’Neal, who was trying to get something out of his pocket, prosecutors said. At one point, O’Neal knelt by a car to hide from police.

One officer ran after O’Neal, who refused to stop and kept trying to pull something out of his pocket, prosecutors said. During the chase, O’Neal “slammed” a gate on the officer’s arm, giving the officer an abrasion, prosecutors said.

The officer kept chasing O’Neal, who tried to punch the officer in his face, before the officer was able to eventually get O’Neal to the ground, prosecutors said.

O’Neal called out to people in the area, “Help me. F-- this n----- up. Get his a--,” prosecutors said. Some of the officer’s equipment was knocked off his chest and O’Neal called for people to use the equipment, prosecutors said, though they could not say what the equipment was when Judge Peggy Chiampas asked.

The officer was able to handcuff one of O’Neal’s wrists, but O’Neal then bit the officer in his finger, breaking the skin and causing the officer to bleed, prosecutors said. O’Neal then reached up and tried to strangle the officer, who couldn’t breathe, prosecutors said.

The second officer tried to control the crowd, which had about 30 people, prosecutors said. He saw O’Neal’s hand around the first officer’s throat, heard the first officer call out and turned and stomped on O’Neal’s head, prosecutors said.

More officers arrived at the scene and they were able to handcuff O’Neal, prosecutors said. They found a white, powdery substance in plastic bags that they suspect to be heroin.

Paramedics said O’Neal was hostile, confused and screaming “inappropriate words,” prosecutors said. They thought he was on drugs, prosecutors said.

O’Neal later said he ran from police because he thought there might be a warrant out for him, and he said he hadn’t strangled a police officer and had been knocked unconscious, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said the video shows O’Neal struggling with police while members of the crowd say things like “Go get the guns” and “We’ll kill you” to the officers.

A witness called the Independent Police Review Authority the next day to tell them what she had witnessed, saying she saw men threatening the officers, the crowd was growing and people in the area, which she dubbed “Drug Central,” didn’t obey police, prosecutors said.

O’Neal was released on Wednesday because a case was still being built, prosecutors said.

Officers went to arrest O’Neal again on Thursday, going to the 3600 block of West Lexington Avenue, prosecutors said. They saw O’Neal and put him in handcuffs, but as they walked him toward their police car he “became irate” and a woman called for people on the street to come outside, prosecutors said.

O’Neal then refused to get into the police car and pushed himself off the car and into the officers, prosecutors said. One officer had a sprained wrist and hand contusion and was treated at Illinois Masonic Hospital.

The officers used a Taser on O’Neal twice and were eventually able to get him into the police car, prosecutors said. That incident was also caught on surveillance video.

O’Neal was on parole at the time for delivery of a controlled substance, prosecutors said. He had been convicted of theft and possession of a controlled substance in the past and was a documented gang member, prosecutors said.

Oppenheimer, O’Neal’s attorney, said the witness who called IPRA had nothing to do with O’Neal and prosecutors were “throwing this in here to confuse the issue.” He also told the judge O’Neal’s prior convictions had nothing to do with violence.

Oppenheimer questioned why police had taken several days to charge and arrest O’Neal a second time and said there were no lab tests to prove the powdery substance that was found was heroin. He also said he doubted officers had spent time in the hospital and said no one in the crowd from the first incident was arrested.

“These are trumped-up charges to cover up what those officers did to Mr. O’Neal,” Oppenheimer said.

Chiampas and Oppenheimer debated the video several times, with Oppenheimer saying O’Neal was knocked unconscious but Chiampas saying he was not and she saw O’Neal strangle the officer in the video. Chiampas also said she commended the officers for not arresting people in the crowd from the first incident, saying it showed “great restraint.”

Chiampas set O’Neal’s bail at $1 million for charges stemming from the first incident and $150,000 for charges from the second incident.

Afterward, Oppenheimer and community activists said O’Neal’s bail had been set too high and they’ll work to get it lowered. The group said O’Neal was part of a “political game” and had been brutalized by police.

Officers released O’Neal into rival gang territory, the activists said. Oppenheimer said he found O'Neal, bandaged and without a shirt, in the area after he was released by police. They also said police took O’Neal to Illinois Masonic Hospital, which is “very far” from his home, after they used a Taser on him twice during the second incident.

“They were hoping that Shaquille O’Neal, something would happen to him,” one said.

Activist Ja'Mal Green said O'Neal's distant cousin was Antonio Perkins, a man who filmed his own murder on Facebook Live this week. They've been deeply distressed by Perkins' death and the incidents with O'Neal, he said, and O'Neal's mother has been hospitalized.

"Know that we're supporting him through this. Know that we're working very, very hard to make sure that we can get him home free," Green said. "And the city will pay for this."

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