- Chicago Police Department handout via Reuters
Chicago police say there was never any doubt the beating of a white man broadcast live on Facebook would be investigated as a hate crime.
They say the four black suspects face hate crime charges because they were shouting racial slurs at the victim and because they referred to his mental capacity.
“The actions in that video are reprehensible,” Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said at a press conference Thursday.
“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.”
Police also said the victim had been friends with one of the suspects, 18-year-old Jordan Hill of suburban Chicago. They say on New Year’s Eve, Hill and the victim met up at a suburban McDonald’s to begin what both the victim and his parents believed was going to be a sleepover.
Police say Hill drove the victim around in a stolen van for a couple days. They ended up at a home in Chicago, where police say Hill and the three other suspects taunted the victim and beat him.
Cook County prosecutors on Thursday announced charges against three 18-year-olds – Hill, Brittany Covington of Chicago, and Tesfaye Cooper of Chicago – and 24-year-old Tanishia Covington of Chicago.
Prosecutors say the four are also charged with aggravated unlawful restraint and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. In addition, three of the suspects have been charged with residential burglary.
The charges stem from an incident that went on for as long as 48 hours. Police said the victim had “mental-health challenges.”
Video of the ordeal, posted on Facebook Live on Wednesday, showed an unidentified man tied and gagged while a woman recorded. Others in the video could be heard saying “f— white people” and “f— Donald Trump.”
“It’s sickening,” Johnson said of the graphic images during a press conference on Wednesday. “It makes you wonder what would make individuals treat somebody like that.”
According to a statement from the Chicago Police Department provided to Business Insider, the victim appeared “disoriented” when police found him walking near the 3400 block of West Lexington Street on Wednesday. He was taken to a nearby hospital, police said.
Shortly after the video surfaced on social media, police said they were able to link the injured man to a residence nearby, where they discovered signs of a struggle and damage to the property.
One of the suspects, according to police, was a former schoolmate of the victim.
Although people in the video made statements referencing President-elect Donald Trump, who often pointed to Chicago as an example of crime-stricken neighborhoods during his campaign, police said they do not believe the assault was politically or racially motivated.
Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said Thursday morning that the suspects made “terrible racist statements” during the attack, 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.
Mark Abadi and Michelle Mark contributed to this report.