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Police: 4 charged in Facebook Live attack to appear in court

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    From left to right: Tesfaye Cooper, Brittany Covington, Tanishia Covington and Jordan Hill.

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson spoke during a news conference, Thursday, on the hate crime and other charges filed against four individuals for an attack on a man that was captured on a Facebook video.

CHICAGO >> The two teens had been schoolmates, police said. After meeting in suburban Chicago, they spent two days together, driving around visiting friends. Then a pretend fight between them escalated into a real beating, and the attack on a mentally disabled teenager stirred racial tensions after being broadcast on Facebook Live.

Authorities say four black people assaulted the white suburban teenager, threatening him with a knife and taunting him with profanities against white people and President-elect Donald Trump. The suspects were charged Thursday with hate crimes, kidnapping and battery. They were to make their first court appearance today.

The beating was captured on cellphone video by one of the assailants and has since been viewed millions of times on social media.

“This should never have happened,” David Boyd, the victim’s brother-in-law, said at a brief news conference in suburban Chicago. He said the victim was traumatized but doing as well as could be expected.

Neal Strom, a family spokesman, told The Associated Press the victim has had “profound emotional and physical disabilities throughout his life.” He did not elaborate.

Police said drug use may have been involved in the incident. The video shows the two female suspects smoking what authorities “presume to be blunts,” a term often used for a marijuana-filled cigar. While the victim was tied up, his attackers used racial slurs and made references “to his mental capacity,” Chicago Police Commander Kevin Duffin said.

The uproar over the beating intensified the glare on Chicago after a bloody year of violent crime and protests against Mayor Rahm Emanuel and a police department that has been accused of using excessive force and hushing-up wrongdoing. The department has also been the subject of a long civil-rights investigation by the Justice Department, which is expected to report its findings soon.

The incident also stirred emotions still raw after a presidential election campaign that split the nation. The case heightened political tensions on social media, with some conservatives suggesting it was linked to the Black Lives Matter movement. Police said there was no indication of any connection.

The cruelty of the attack and the intense social media exposure prompted President Barack Obama to respond, calling it “despicable.”

“I take these things very seriously,” he told Chicago’s WBBM-TV on Thursday. But he said the assault does not mean that race relations have gotten worse.

“We see visuals of racial tensions, violence and so forth because of smartphones and the internet and media … a lot of the problems that have been there a long time,” he said.

Chicago police initially said the youth was singled out because he has “special needs,” not because he was white. But authorities later said the charges resulted from both the suspects’ use of racial slurs and their references to the victim’s disability.

Cook County prosecutors identified the suspects as Brittany Covington and Tesfaye Cooper, both of Chicago, and Jordan Hill, of suburban Carpentersville. All are 18. A fourth suspect was identified as Covington’s 24-year-old sister, Tanishia Covington, also of Chicago.

Two of the suspects were arrested as juveniles on armed robbery and other serious charges.

Hill was arrested in 2015 on allegations of armed robbery, possession of a stolen vehicle and residential burglary. Chicago police said they did not know the disposition of those arrests by suburban officers.

Tanishia Covington was arrested in 2007 on attempted armed robbery and aggravated battery charges. Police records do not show any convictions as a juvenile. As an adult, she was arrested on charges of battery and aggravated assault, but those charges were dropped.

Excerpts of the video posted by Chicago media outlets show the victim with his mouth taped shut and slumped in a corner of a room. At least two assailants are seen cutting off his sweatshirt, and others taunt him off camera. The video shows a wound on the top of the man’s head. One person pushes the man’s head with his or her foot.

A red band also appears to be around the victim’s hands. He was tied up for four to five hours, authorities said.

The incident began New Year’s Eve, when the victim and alleged assailant Jordan Hill met at a suburban McDonald’s to begin what both the victim and his parents believed would be a sleepover, police said.

Instead, Hill drove the victim around in a stolen van for a couple of days, ending up at a home in Chicago, where two of the other suspects lived, Detective Commander Kevin Duffin said.

The victim told police what began as playful fighting escalated. A downstairs neighbor who heard noises threatened to call police. When two of the suspects left and kicked down the neighbor’s door, the victim escaped. A police officer later spotted the bloodied and obviously disoriented man wandering down a street.

The victim’s parents reported him missing Monday evening, two days after last hearing from him. The police report said the victim’s mother knew the first name of her son’s friend — Jordan — but wasn’t clear on his last name. The report also noted that the victim “does not like telling his parents who he’s with.”

The parents later received text messages “from persons claiming to be holding him captive,” police said. While investigating the messages, police discovered the Facebook video.

The grandmother of Brittany Covington said the granddaughter she raised from infancy is “not this person.”

“I’m so upset, my head is about to bust open,” said Priscilla Covington of Chicago. “I don’t know if someone influenced her. … She had her ups and down. (She) was a good person. I’m so confused.”

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  • Racism and hate exists in this world, and the president is guilty of fanning the flames of hatred by constantly dividing country along racial lines.

      • Are you two self-proclaimed geniuses aware that rapid implementation of social media technology, which directly coincides with Obama’s tenure as president, has dessiminated every little detail of racism and hate literally in real-time, front and center of all of society to see? Get a clue people. Correlation does not imply causation.

        • runs, never thought of myself as a genius, and apparently neither do you, so that makes two of us! This is an opinion page, so you make a good point, but if you have to justify all correlations into causation studies before you state your opinion, no one could state an opinion on this type of forum, so this remains one’s personal opinion, flawed as it may be.

  • What a crock of sh. If these races were reversed, we’d have cnn camped-out at the chiefs’ doorstep, along with every race merchant in America, and God knows, we’ve got plenty.

  • Stupid people post stupid things on social media. Every one saw what you did. Now, spend your time in prison. Too bad cannot post your pics on social media BEHIND BARS… Hope the victim recovers from his injuries and this bad ordeal.

  • democrats and media are hard at work trying to blame trump for this racist hate crime committed by blacks against a white disabled student.

    however, eric holder identified the problems blacks have 22 years ago: “a lack of values in our nation as a whole and in the black community in particular. soaring unwed birthrates, absentee fathers, an aversion to work, an unwillingness to embrace societal standards and time-honored discipline — all these factors have contributed to the problems we must now confront.”

    then, of course, you have racist hillary clinton who while campaigning for a bill providing for more arrests and harsher prison sentences hatefully said of inner city black youths “they are often the kinds of kids that are called ‘super-predators.’ No conscience, no empathy, we can talk about why they ended up that way, but first we have to bring them to heel.”

  • There was no doubt this was a hate crime. The police finally properly charged them after public backlash. Racism is all people not just white on black.

  • “We see visuals of racial tensions, violence and so forth because of smartphones and the internet and media … a lot of the problems that have been there a long time,” he said.

    I agree with this statement to an extent. People who think race relations have gotten significantly worse under Obama already have an agenda to push. This tension has ALWAYS been there. If race relations have indeed gotten worse, I’d blame technology which allows anyone the ability to disseminate information almost instantly. Obama did however bring already existing problems (ex. police brutality) into the forefront for all to see. So if you think that inflames racial tensions then I guess you’d be right.

      • Surprised? At what? That there are more than twice as many whites killed by cops as blacks each year? No I’m not surprised since blacks are only about 12% of the population. Cops in general are granted a lot of leeway when they kill, no matter the person’s race. So this is not just a black problem but also a problem of people in authority getting away with crimes.

  • “I’m so upset, my head is about to bust open,” said Priscilla Covington of Chicago. “I don’t know if someone influenced her. … She had her ups and down. (She) was a good person. I’m so confused.”

    Most people have more than one side to them. I’m pretty sure her granddaughter doesn’t act the same way around her that she does around her peers.

    These “friends” of the victim were never really true friends. Friends don’t do this to friends. I’d bet the suspects never truly respected the victim. They may have been disparaging to the victim in the past and this incident just showed their true colors.

  • You idiots that blame the President for racial tensions are so ignorant, it’s scary. The huge, and widening, wealth gap is ONE of the main factors fanning racial flames !! The unemployment rate for young people is another. Throw in absentee parents, and you have the recipe for horrible race relations. I have had a personal experience in Amarillo, Texas in 1973, when I swam for Coach Sakamoto and Hawaii Swim Club. We went into a restaurant where some Java Man Owner told us his restaurant doesn’t serve any F–KING Japs !!! President Obama was still in school at Noelani Elementary when it occurred last I checked !!!

    • and yet, there are many other stories of texans welcoming ajas as it was the 442nd that broke through german lines and linked up with the mostly texas troops that were surrounded in bastogne during the battle of the bulge.

    • Agree with some of what you say, but what has happened with jobs over last 8 years and who was the Pres? The other thing is at some point in ones life one needs to stop blaming others for all ones problems. Life marches on and at some point one needs to decide if they are to continue the blame game or pull up your boot straps and go to work. Many minority races have succeeded and some have made it huge. Delt lemons, make lemonade.

  • “Chicago police initially said the youth was singled out because he has “special needs,” not because he was white.” Gee, I wonder who was responsible for this erroneous conclusion?

  • That was a sick video. One thing the article didn’t cover was the kids cutting a chunk away from the victims scalp. You know, if I could be a judge on their case, I would sentence them to torture and abuse like they gave. Probably unconstitutional but what the heck was in their heads. It was like they didnt know or care what they were doing was wrong. It was like they thought they were justified or something. Really twisted mentality.

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