Teens in 'Facebook Live' torture video charged with hate crimes

Chicago police charged four teens Jan. 5, 2017, with hates crimes and other felonies in connection with the alleged assault and torture of a special needs teenager that was streamed on Facebook Live. The four suspects: Far left, Brittany Covington, 18, of Chicago. Right, top to bottom: Jordan Hill, 18, of Carpentersville, Ill.; Tanishia Covington, 24, Chicago, and Tesfaye Cooper, 18, of Chicago.
(Photo: Chicago Police Dept. via Twitter)
Four Teens in Facebook Live Torture Video Charged With Hate Crimes

Four teenagers face hate crime, aggravated kidnapping and other felony charges in connection with the torture and beating of a bound and gagged man in Chicago broadcast live on Facebook.

The 18-year-old suspects — identified as Jordan Hill, Tesfaye Cooper, Brittany Covington and Tanishia Covington — were charged Thursday ahead of an afternoon bond hearing.

The charges also include aggravated unlawful restraint and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.

Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi had tweeted Thursday morning that authorities were continuing to investigate the "senseless attack," potentially as a hate crime after the attackers, who are black, were heard yelling anti-white epithets at various points throughout the 30-minute video.

The unidentified 18-year-old victim, described as having mental health challenges, went to school with of one of the attackers and may have willingly gone with the group, authorities said. His family in suburban Chicago first reported him missing late Monday.

Other possible motives for the attack have not been released. At a news conference Wednesday, police said they must determine whether the racial statements were "sincere or just stupid ranting and raving."

The victim was traumatized by the violence, and eventually spoke with police after he was located wandering on a Chicago street Tuesday night disheveled and in distress. He had to be hospitalized, officials said.

The video, which first aired Tuesday and was also uploaded to YouTube, shows the victim cowering in a corner as the group kicks and slaps him and cuts his hair until his scalp bleeds.

The assailants can also be heard laughing, discussing drug use and yelling "F--- Donald Trump!" and "F--- white people!"

Police are also aware of a second video that showed the teen being forced to drink out of a toilet, according to NBC Chicago. NBC News has not verified that second video.

"It's sickening," police Superintendent Eddie Johnson told reporters Wednesday. Police also have no evidence it was a politically motivated attack.

A Facebook spokesperson said Thursday that the original video was taken down because the social network does "not allow people to celebrate or glorify crimes."

"In many instances, though, when people share this type of content, they are doing so to condemn violence or raise awareness about it," the spokesperson said in a statement. "In that case, the video would be allowed."

At around the same time that police found the victim on the street, other officers responded to a report of property damage and a struggle at a nearby address, and apprehended the suspects.

Various groups, including members of Black Lives Matter, have condemned the attack as "barbaric behavior" and called for justice for the victim.

Four young African-Americans were charged with hate crimes and other felonies  in Chicago on Thursday for allegedly tying up, beating and torturing a white acquaintance — a special needs student — and livestreaming the assault on Facebook.

Authorities said the victim was a friend of one of the suspects, Jordan Hill, 18, and had spent  a day and night riding around Chicago with him in a stolen van. Hill allegedly tied up the victim and began a methodical, six-hour assault on Tuesday after playful fighting turned ugly.

The Cook County prosecutors office charged Hill, of Carpentersville, Ill., along with Tesfaye Cooper, 18, Brittany Covington, 18,  and Tanishia Covington, 24, all of Chicago, with aggravated kidnapping, hate crime, aggravated unlawful restraint, aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and residential burglary. Hill was also charged with robbery and possession of a stolen motor vehicle.

The half-hour video, which exploded on social media Wednesday, appears to show at least one black man torturing and taunting the 18-year-old victim and making disparaging remarks about President-elect Donald Trump.

In announcing the charges, Chicago  Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson called the actions in the video "reprehensible."  He indicated that the "hate crime" charges were based on racial comments and disparaging comments made by the suspects regarding the victim's mental condition.

The video, linked here, includes raw language. At one point, as the victim crouches against a wall with his wrists bound and his mouth taped shut, someone is heard on the video shouting, “F‑‑‑ Donald Trump” and “F‑‑‑ white people.”

The four were expected to appear in court on Friday.

The video was initially posted via Facebook Live under the account of someone named Brittany Herring and spread quickly through Twitter under the hashtag #BLMKidnapping.

BLM is an apparent reference to the social justice group Black Lives Matter, which did not appear to have any connection to the video.

Facebook has confirmed that it removed the original video from one of the suspect's Facebook profiles as part of their policy banning the celebration or glorification of crimes.

Police said in a statement that the victim, who is from a Chicago suburb, was in stable condition. Johnson said the victim has "mental health challenges."

In a news conference, Johnson described the video as “sickening.”

The video, recorded by one of the women in the group, appears to show two men using knives to cut the man's shirt, then taking turns hitting him and stomping his head.  At one point, one of the men appears to cut the victim’s hair and scalp. The assailants are also seen fingering a bleeding wound on the top of his head as a woman in the video laughs.

“It makes you wonder what would make individuals treat somebody like that,” Johnson said. “I've been a cop for 28 years and I've seen things that you shouldn't see. It still amazes me how you still see things that you just shouldn't."

Police Cmdr. Kevin Duffin said the victim was with his attackers for 24 to 48 hours before police found him, and the episode has left him shaken.

“He’s traumatized by the incident and it’s very tough to communicate with him at this point,” he said.

The victim's parents reported him missing when he disappeared after they dropped him off at a McDonald's Saturday in the Chicago suburb of Streamwood to spend the night with Hill. At one point, the parents began getting text messages from someone claiming to be holding him captive.

In an earlier statement, Chicago police said officers were called to a residence on the city's West Side on Tuesday evening where they found signs of a struggle and damaged property.

They said they later spotted a disoriented male on the street and took him to a hospital. They believe he is the same person seen being tortured in the video, tied up and sitting in a corner.

Officers said they later became aware of the video circulating on social media.

Some residents of Chicago's West side, where the attack occurred, were gathering Thursday afternoon to express their sorrow for the incident and to raise money for the victim.

"My church members have called me sickened by what they saw in the torture of the young man in our community", says the Rev. Marshall Hatch. "The residents want others to know that their hearts are touched and want give to help the healing of the victim."

"There is no excuse for kidnap and abuse," says the Rev. Ira Acree  Co-Chair of the Leaders Network. "Our phones are ringing ... people want to help. Many of our families have children with special needs and feel it could have been their family."

Hate crime charges filed in Chicago beating streamed on Facebook Live

Hate crime and aggravated battery charges were filed Thursday against four African American suspects who police say tortured a mentally challenged white man for as long as 48 hours, while shouting racial and anti-Donald Trump slurs -- and part of the attack was streamed on Facebook Live.

"Let me be very clear: The actions in that video are reprehensible," Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson told reporters during a news conference.

The suspects -- Jordan Hill, 18, Tesfaye Cooper, 18, Brittany Covington, 18, and Tanishia Covington, 24 -- were set to appear in Central Bond Court on Friday afternoon.

Police on Thursday filled in details from the case. The 18-year-old man's parents had dropped him off at a McDonald's in suburban Streamwood last weekend to hang out with Hill, who took him in a van to see the rest of the group in western Chicago, investigators said, adding that the man didn't seem to know Hill had just stolen the van.

The man's parents apparently thought he'd be spending the night with friends, according to police. They said he and Hill had gone to school together in Aurora, although they didn't see each other frequently.

Instead, investigators claimed the group kidnapped the man, keeping him tied up for hours or more with his mouth taped shut in an apartment on the city's west side. The video showed him cowering in a corner while someone yelled "F--- white people!" and "F--- Donald Trump!" At one point, the man was held at knifepoint and told to curse the president-elect.

The video also showed the man being kicked and hit repeatedly, while his scalp was cut. The group apparently forced him to drink water from a toilet.

The worst of the attack had started out as a "play fight" that ultimately escalated, police said. They told reporters the man slept in the van during the ordeal.

The man finally escaped on Monday after a neighbor on a lower floor of the apartment building complained about the noise and threatened to call the cops, police said. They told reporters the suspects barged into the neighbor's apartment, giving the man an opportunity to get out.

The four also face burglary charges in connection to the break-in.

A police officer finally encountered the disoriented man walking down a street on Monday wearing only an inside-out tank top, jean shorts and sandals, despite the frigid weather. The officer said it was clear the man had been bloodied and battered.

Police became aware on Tuesday of the heinous video footage, FOX32 reported.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest wouldn't say if he thought the incident was a hate crime, but did discuss the callous nature of the crime.

"They do demonstrate a level of depravity that is an outrage to a lot of Americans," Earnest said. "I have not spoken to the president but I'm confident he would be angered by the images depicted."

The suspects could be heard saying they wanted the video to go viral.

They now face a bevy of charges.

Hill was charged with aggravated kidnapping, hate crime, aggravated unlawful restraint, aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, robbery, residential burglary; Cooper was charged with aggravated kidnapping, hate crime, aggravated unlawful restraint, aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and residential burglary; Brittany Covington was charged with aggravated kidnapping, hate crime, aggravated unlawful restraint, aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and residential burglary; Tanishia Covington was charged with aggravated kidnapping, hate crime, aggravated unlawful restraint and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.

Hill is from Carpentersville and the others are Chicago residents.

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