CHICAGO (CBSNewYork/CBS Chicago/AP) — Prosecutors on Thursday filed hate crime and aggravated kidnapping charges against four people accused of beating and taunting a man on Chicago’s West Side during an attack streamed live on Facebook.
The Cook County State’s Attorney’s office on Thursday announced charges against three 18-year-olds — Jordan Hill of suburban Carpentersville, Brittany Covington and Tesfaye Cooper of Chicago — and 24-year-old Tanishia Covington, also of Chicago.
The four are also charged with aggravated unlawful restraint and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, prosecutors said. Three have also been charged with residential burglary.
“If they’re convicted of the serious charges in this particular case, they’re going to spend a long time in the penitentiary,” said WBBM-TV, CBS2 Chicago Legal Analyst Irv Miller. “They’re not looking at years. They may be looking at decades.”
The defendants are accused of kidnapping and beating a mentally disabled 18-year-old man who had been missing from the northwest Chicago suburb of Crystal Lake.
The four suspects are black. The victim is white.
Chicago Police officers late Thursday were on watch outside the building where the attack happened, CBS2 Chicago’s Audrina Bigos reported.
Police said the victim was terrified and traumatized after being held hostage from one to two days.
“Hard to watch – because it’s a person; a human being,” one neighbor said.
In the video, the victim was backed into a corner where his clothes were cut, his hair was peppered with cigarette ashes, and then his hair cut with a knife until his scalp bled, CBS Chicago reported. Several people can be seen laughing and eating during the attack, in addition to making disparaging remarks about President-elect Donald Trump and using racially charged language referencing white people, CBS Chicago reported.
A second video, which surfaced on Twitter, showed the suspects grabbing the teen’s head, shoving it into a toilet, and forcing him to drink.
“The actions in that video are reprehensible. That, along with racism, have absolutely no place in the city of Chicago, or anywhere else for that matter against anyone, regardless of their race, gender, state of mental health, or any other identifying factor. There was never a question whether or not this incident qualified to be investigated as a hate crime,” Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson said Thursday afternoon.
Ironically, police said Hill was the victim’s friend. Police said the victim’s parents dropped him off at McDonald’s in suburban Streamwood on New Year’s Eve, so he could meet Hill and spend the night at Hill’s home.
Hill allegedly picked him up there a short time later in a stolen vehicle and took him to the West Side of Chicago, CBS Chicago reported.
“He’s at the McDonald’s, and Jordan Hill goes and steals a van in Streamwood. He then picks up our victim, who has no knowledge that the van is stolen – he assumed it’s Jordan’s,” Duffin said.
The victim said he got into a “play fight” with Hill and it escalated from there, Duffin said.
Hill allegedly drove around the West Side for the next few days, and the victim slept at night in the back of the van.
On Tuesday, Hill allegedly took the victim to the Covington sisters’ home on the 3400 block of West Lexington Street in Chicago’s North Lawndale neighborhood. A few hours later, the four suspects began torturing him, prosecutors alleged.
As CBS2 Chicago’s Dorothy Tucker reported Thursday, the victim was tortured for more than six hours in the third floor apartment.
A downstairs neighbor called 911 on Tuesday to complain about excessive noise from the Covingtons’ apartment, police said. Police responded to the call, and the sisters broke down the neighbor’s door, upset that they had called police, authorities said.
Police said the victim was able to escape the apartment, and an officer spotted him outside.
“I observed him wearing a tanktop inside out, backwards,” said Chicago Police Officer Michael Donnelly. “He was very discombobulated. He was injured. He was confused.”
Investigators soon discovered the disturbing Facebook video showing the young man being tortured.
On Thursday, David Boyd, the victim’s brother-in-law, said in a statement: “These are sick human beings. He didn’t do anything wrong. They just said let’s find someone we can victimize.”
Boyd added that the victim “did not support Trump. He never had a political viewpoint in his life.”
The victim’s family members also held a news conference in Crystal Lake, CBS2 Chicago’s Charlie De Mar reported.
“At this time, we ask for continued prayers, for all those involved, for our family’s privacy as we cope and heal,” Boyd said at the news conference.
He said the family has been overwhelmed by the attention the case has generated.
“This should never have happened,” Boyd said.
Coverage From CBS Chicago — Charlie De Mar Reports:
Family members were not sure if they would attend a bond court hearing for the four people charged with kidnapping and a hate crime, CBS Chicago reported.
Relatives said the victim was treated for cuts and bruises at a hospital. He was back at home in Crystal Lake, but relatives described him as distraught – throwing up and unable to sleep, Tucker reported.
In a statement, Facebook said it does not allow people to celebrate or glorify crimes and has removed the original video.
Meanwhile, CBS2 Chicago Investigator Pam Zekman looked into the background of the suspects. Duffin said Hill and the victim were acquaintances who attended school together in suburban Aurora at some point.
Coverage From CBS Chicago — Pam Zekman Reports:
“They have hung out occasionally before – not frequently,” Duffin said.
Brittany and Tanishia Covington knew their male co-defendants Hill and Cooper, Zekman reported.
Brittany Covington was arrested in 2016 on a misdemeanor retail theft charge, but the case was ultimately dismissed.
Tanishia Covington has six previous misdemeanor arrests – including two for battery that were eventually dismissed last year. She also pleaded guilty one last year for trespass to a vehicle and was sentenced to one year court supervision.
Priscilla Convington, the grandmother of Tanishia Covington, told CBS News, “This is not the girl I raised.”
Police said they could not reveal charges filed against any of the defendants as juveniles, Zekman reported.
Coverage From CBS Chicago — Jay Levine Reports:
Obama said he doesn’t believe racial tensions have gotten worse, but that the public exposure is more prevalent in the digital age. The president remains hopeful about the future.
“I take these things very seriously,” Obama told Levine. “The good news is that the next generation that’s coming behind us… have smarter, better, more thoughtful attitudes about race. I think the overall trajectory of race relations in this country is actually very positive. It doesn’t mean that all racial problems have gone away. It means that we have the capacity to get better.”
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