Four people have been arrested in Chicago after a disturbing video showing the torture of a bound and gagged man was streamed on Facebook Live on Tuesday.
UPDATE, 6/1/17 10:00
Police have named the four attackers as Brittany Covington (who took the video), 18; Tanishia Covington, 24; Jordan Hill, 18; and Tesfaye Cooper, 18. They have been charged with aggravated kidnapping, hate crime, aggravated unlawful restraint, aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, and residential burglary.
The 30 minutes of footage shows two women and two men assaulting and mocking the victim as he sits in the corner of a room with tape over his mouth. One of the women streamed the video on the social networking site under her real name, mostly pointing the camera at herself while she talks but also filming attacks on the victim.
Police have revealed that the victim suffers from mental health challenges. All of the people involved are adults, and the four assailants are currently in custody and being questioned.
In the footage, the attackers scream, “Fuck Trump!” and “Fuck all white people!” At one point, the victim is forced at knife-point to repeat, “I love all black people.” All of the attackers are black, whereas the victim is white.
The police did not immediately designate the attack as a hate crime. Chicago police commander Kevin Duffin came under fire for his comments after he said, “Although they are adults, they’re 18. Kids make stupid decisions. I shouldn’t call them kids, they’re legally adults, but they’re young adults, and they make stupid decisions.”
The video has incited vociferous anti-black racist commentary on social media. Meanwhile, Duffin said that the department would be trying to determine whether the anti-Trump and anti-white racist comments in the video were “sincere, or just ranting and raving”, before they determined whether it would be categorised as a hate crime.
The original video has been deleted by Facebook but has been shared on YouTube and Twitter. The beginning of the footage shows two attackers cutting the hoody of the victim with a knife. Later on, they use a knife to cut his scalp and then ash their cigarettes on to his head and the open wound.
During the broadcast, the woman filming responds to comments posted simultaneously on her Facebook page, telling commenters who protest to get off her page. At one point she tells the others that her little sister is watching the video and commented that it’s “not funny”. One of the men responds to the camera, “Tell Donald Trump that’s not funny.”
Other, shorter, videos have since emerged, showing the victim forced to drink from a toilet bowl and bound across the room while pretending to be a dog. One of the attackers asks him, “What’s up, doggie?”
The four assailants are heard talking about “gang bangs” and making vague references to the North Pole gang. The North Pole is a name given to a neighbourhood in the North Side of Chicago, an area known for gang violence.
The victim was found wandering and disorientated by patrol officers on Tuesday, who took him to a hospital. Police later responded to reports of battery at a property nearby, and linked the reports with the victim they had aided earlier. In a press conference, police stated that they suspect that he was with his attackers for at least 24 hours, possibly even as long as 48 hours, and that it was “quite a possibility” that it was a kidnapping. The four attackers had stolen a van prior to the abusive incident.
Chicago police commander Kevin Duffin said that the victim was “traumatised by the incident”, and that “It took most of the night for him to calm down enough to talk to us”. He has since been released from hospital.
The predominant hashtag used on Twitter to talk about the incident is #BLMKidnapping, using the acronym for the national organisation Black Lives Matter, which works to combat institutionalised anti-black racism in the US and police violence against black people. There is no indication that the four black attackers are members of the movement.