2017 Chicago torture incident
|Chicago torture incident|
|Date||January 3, 2017|
In January 2017, a white mentally disabled youth in a suburb of Chicago, Illinois, was filmed being physically and verbally abused by four black individuals. The incident was livestreamed on Facebook, making the incident a live streaming crime.
The victim met with an acquaintance from high school at a McDonald's on New Year's Eve, and on January 3 was found by a police officer to appear injured while walking with a suspect on a sidewalk. The four suspects were arrested after the incident was livestreamed by one of the women on Facebook, and found guilty of hate crimes and other offenses.
Kidnapping and torture
On December 31, 2016, the 18-year-old victim was dropped off at a McDonald's in suburban Streamwood, Illinois, by his parents. The victim knew one of the suspects before the incident had occurred as the two had attended the same school in Aurora, Illinois, and the victim had mistakenly thought that the two were friends. When the victim went to the McDonald's, he had the intention of spending time with this friend. On January 2, 2017, the victim's parents filed a report that he was missing.
Police noted that one of the male suspects stole a van and, pretending that it was his own van, went to meet the victim. The victim got into the van with the suspect, and they went to one of the suspect's friend's houses on the West Side of Chicago for a two-day visit. During that time, the victim slept in the van. On January 3, they went to the residence of two of the other suspects, who were sisters. While at the sisters' apartment, the victim and the male suspect "play-fought", which ended in the sisters getting angry and tying the victim up.
The younger of the two sisters then turned on a Facebook Live stream to record the following events. The victim was bound, gagged, beaten, taunted, had part of his scalp removed with a knife, and was forced to kiss the floor and drink from a toilet bowl. The attackers are heard shouting "Fuck Trump" and "Fuck white people" in the video. One of the suspects contacted the victim's mother and demanded a $300 ransom for the victim's return. Although the Facebook Live stream only lasted 28 minutes, the victim was tied up for hours. Police suspected that the attack stopped when neighbors in a downstairs apartment complained about noise levels.
Suspects and legal proceedings
Four suspects were arrested and charged with aggravated kidnapping, aggravated unlawful restraint, aggravated battery, and hate crime. Two were 18-year-old males, Jordan Hill and Tesfaye Cooper, and one was Brittany Covington, an 18-year-old female; her sister Tanishia Covington was a 24-year-old female.
On February 10, 2017, all four suspects pleaded not guilty at their arraignment. On May 16, 2017, a judge set bail for the four individuals: $900,000 for Hill; $800,000 for Cooper; $500,000 for Brittany Covington; and $200,000 for Tanishia Covington. None of the four defendants was able to post bail.
On December 8, 2017, Brittany Covington plead guilty to the charges of committing a hate crime, intimidation and aggravated battery. Additional charges, such as kidnapping, were dropped as part of her plea deal. Covington was sentenced to four years of probation and 200 hours of community service. Cook County Circuit Judge William Hooks said that he could have sentenced her to prison, but did not because "I'm not sure if I did that you'd be coming out any better."
On April 19, 2018, Tanishia Covington plead guilty to the charges of committing a hate crime, intimidation and aggravated battery and was sentenced to three years in prison.
Aftermath and reactions
On January 3, at approximately 5:15 p.m., Harrison District Officer Michael Donnelly saw the victim walking with the suspect that the victim had gone to high school with. The victim was observed by Officer Donnelly to be wearing summer clothing during winter conditions. Police said the victim appeared "injured" and "confused". After checking the victim's name through police databases it was discovered that he had been reported missing. Donnelly later stated, "I observed him wearing a tank top, inside-out, backwards, jean shorts and sandals on...He was bloodied. He was battered. He was very discombobulated." Running the victim's name through police databases, Officer Donnelly discovered that the victim was reported as a missing person and brought him to the hospital.
The live stream was later deleted, but archives still exist. There was widespread outrage over the beating. In its aftermath, the hashtag #BLMKidnapping was trending on Twitter, implying a connection with the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. None of the attackers specifically mentioned Black Lives Matter in the video and the police found there to be no direct connection. Representatives for Black Lives Matter's Chicago branch denounced the beating and stated that they were uninvolved, and police stated that they found no evidence that Black Lives Matter was the motive of the incident. Some media pundits such as Glenn Beck suggested that the rhetoric of Black Lives Matter and its supporters had encouraged the attackers, while other commentators disputed this claim.
President Barack Obama released a statement condemning the incident, saying, "What we have seen as surfacing, I think, are a lot of problems that have been there a long time... Whether it's tensions between police and communities, (or) hate crimes of the despicable sort that has just now recently surfaced on Facebook." Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said, "Anyone who has seen it [finds the video] both sickening and sickened by it," while Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner and his wife Diana said that they were "deeply saddened and disturbed by the horrific violence" depicted in the live stream.
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