Four black teens were charged with hate crimes and other felonies in Chicago Thursday in connection with the apparent torture and a taunting of a white special needs student in a video that was posted live on Facebook, authorities announced.
Tesfaye Cooper, 18, Brittany Covington, 18, Brittany Covington, 18, and Tanishia Covington, 24, all of Chicago, and Jordan Hill, 18, of Carpentersville, Ill., were each charged with aggravated kidnapping, hate crime, aggravated unlawful restraint, aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and residential burglary, according to WLS-TV.
Hill was also charged with robbery and possession of a stolen motor vehicle.
the half-hour video, which exploded on social media on Wednesday, appears to show at least one black man torturing and taunting a white man and making disparaging remarks about President-elect Donald Trump.
The video was initially posted via Facebook Live under the account of someone named Brittany Herring and spread quickly through Twitter and 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 from original video from one of the suspect's Facebook profiles, CNN reports. "We do not allow people to celebrate or glorify crimes on Facebook and have removed the original video for this reason," Facebook said. "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."
The video, linked here, includes raw language. At one point, as the victim — who appears to be white — 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.”
Police said in a statement that the victim, who is believed to be from a Chicago suburb, was in stable condition. Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said Wednesday that the victim has "mental health challenges."
Police say it is too soon to make a determination whether the attack was racially motivated. Many social media users, however, likened the incident to a hate crime and said race was the motivating factor. Herring did not immediately respond to a message sent to her via Facebook inbox.
Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi told the Associated Press on Thursday that police don't believe the victim was targeted because he was white despite profanities made by the accused assailants about white people and Trump.
He acknowledged that the suspects made “terrible racist statements” during the assault, but that investigators believe the victim was targeted because he has “special needs,” not because of his race.
Guglielmi said it’s possible the suspects were trying to extort something from the victim’s family.
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."
CPD press conference regarding disturbing live social media video depicting a battery ; victim was tied up https://t.co/jDrjfz4sJV— Chicago Police (@Chicago_Police) January 5, 2017
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.
Duffin said Wednesday that charges were expected to be filed within 24 hours against four people who were taken into custody. He added that the suspects made "stupid decisions."
Investigators will "determine whether or not this is sincere or just stupid ranting and raving," Duffin said when asked about the language used in the recording.
CNN reports that the suspects — two men and two women — are all 18.
The victim, also 18, knew at least one of his accused attackers from school, according to Duffin. His parents reported him missing when he disappeared after they dropped him off at a McDonald's in the Chicago suburb of Streamwood, the Chicago Tribune reports. Streamwood police said his parents began getting text messages from someone "claiming to be holding him captive," the Tribune reports.
Although the victim may have gotten into a van with the group voluntarily, police are considering kidnapping charges in the case.
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.
Contriibuting: Associated Press