On Thursday, Chicago police are expected to charge four black Chicago residents after a Facebook Live video surfaced of them binding, gagging, and assaulting a young white man, described by police as having “mental health challenges.”
The torture incident apparently happened over the weekend on the west side of Chicago, and police arrested the suspects late Wednesday. Interim superintendent of Chicago PD, Eddie Johnson, held a press conference regarding the graphic video after the arrests:
In the press conference, Johnson doesn’t reference the race of either the offenders or their victim, instead saying:
Video of a brutal act towards an adult male with mental health challenges made its way onto social media. The images in the video put on display the brazenness of the offenders who assaulted the victim and then broadcast it for the entire world to see.
The graphic video shows the young man bleeding from the head, bound and gagged and forced to drink toilet water, while the assailants shouted profanities, “Fuck Trump!” and “Fuck white people!” among them. ABC Chicago reports that the victim had been held “between 24 and 48 hours” and was found by police on Tuesday while disoriented and wandering the 3400-block of West Lexington Street on the city’s West Side where the incident reportedly took place. The victim was reported missing from the nearby suburb of Streamwood on Monday.
Officers who were investigating a suspected battery at a nearby home late Wednesday made a connection between that incident and the hospitalized man, noting that the residence showed signs of a struggle.
Facebook flagged and removed the video from its site for violating its terms and services, releasing this statement:
We do not allow people to celebrate or glorify crimes on Facebook and have removed the original video for this reason. In many instances, though, when people share this type of content, they are doing so to condemn violence or raise awareness about it. In that case, the video would be allowed.
Though now removed, the video itself has been ripped and embedded into news clips and tweets across the internet, where it’s being shared under the hashtag #BLMKidnapping, referencing the Black Lives Matter activist group. A tweet shared Wednesday afternoon that linked to a partial YouTube rip under the hashtag #BLM was retweeted by Mike Cernovich, an alt-right author with a dedicated right wing following.
Cernovich was the first to use the #BLMKidnapping tag to continue the association. Though anti-white slurs are repeated throughout the video, none of the four assailants say “Black Lives Matter.” Nonetheless, Cernovich referred to the attackers as “Black Lives Matter activists.”
Police are investigating whether the slurs are evidence enough to designate the assault a hate crime. However, there’s no evidence to suggest that the attacks were coordinated by, in reference to, or a result of, Black Lives Matter or protests. DeRay, one of the most visible Black Lives Matter activists, has condemned the attack and identified photoshopped tweets in which he appears to support it.
Update: 1/5/17 2pm EST: The Washington Post reports that all four suspects have been formally charged with hate crimes and additional felony criminal charges, including aggravated kidnapping, aggravated battery and aggravated unlawful restraint.
The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office lists the assailants as 24-year old, Tunisia Covington and three 18-year olds, Jordan Hill, Tesfaye Cooper and Brittany Covington. The victim remains unnamed, though police says he has been released from the hospital and is cooperating with the investigation. All four will appear in court Friday.
Update: 1/6/17 5pm EST: The Chicago Tribune reports that a judge denied bail to all four assailants, charging each with aggravated kidnapping, hate crime, aggravated unlawful restraint and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. Hill, 18, faced additional charges of robbery, possession of a stolen motor vehicle and residential burglary. Both Covington sisters, who live in the apartment seen in the video, were also charged with residential burglary. Judge Maria Kuriakos Ciesil said during the hearing, “I’m looking at each of you and wondering where was the sense of decency that each of you should have had? I don’t see it.”
Correction: 1/5/2017 3pm EST: A previous headline for this story stated four teens were arrested. One of the four people charged is 24. We’ve updated our headline accordingly.