4 charged with hate crimes over livestreamed Chicago assault

4 charged with hate crimes over livestreamed Chicago assault
(Clockwise from top left) Brittany Covington, Jordan Hill, Tanishia Covington and Tesfaye Cooper.
PHOTO: AFP

CHICAGO - Chicago prosecutors filed hate crime and other felony charges Thursday against four young men and women accused of holding captive and assaulting a man with special needs in a racially charged attack broadcast live on Facebook.

Video of the assault shows a terrified young white man cowering in the corner of a room as four black attackers taunt and beat him, at times yelling "F*** Donald Trump" and "F*** white people."

The attack rose to a hate crime because of the victim's "diminished mental capacity, the fact that they tied him up, the obvious racial quotes that they post live on Facebook," Chicago police commander Kevin Duffin said at a news conference.

Authorities did not know whether the victim - who knew one of his assailants from school - had voted in the November election or whether his political leanings had influenced the attack.

Instead, they detailed a series of events that began with what was supposed to be a visit between two school acquaintances over New Year's weekend, but which ended in a four to five-hour long assault on Tuesday, part of which was broadcast on Facebook.

"There was certainty no premeditation," Duffin said.

on Facebook

Offenders charged with Hate Crime as well as additional charges for West Side Kidnapping and Attack. Watch the press conference on FB live at 2:15pm

Posted by Chicago Police Department on Thursday, 5 January 2017

In the 30-minute video - which quickly spread online - the two female and two male attackers are seen cutting off parts of the victim's clothes, hitting him and hacking off some of his hair at the scalp, causing bleeding.

Authorities did not reveal the identity of the victim, who was tied up during the videotaped attack and had duct tape over his mouth. He was also forced to drink toilet water, and was left bloodied from the abuse.

He was recovering with his parents after being released from the hospital, police said.

Police identified the four suspects as Jordan Hill, Tesfaye Cooper, Brittany Covington - all 18 years old - and Tanishia Covington, who is 25.

All four face multiple felony charges, including for kidnapping, battery and hate crimes.

The hate crime charge alone carries a sentence of at least a year in prison.

The perpetrators had expressed no remorse for their actions, police said.

on Twitter

"The actions in that video are reprehensible," said Chicago police chief Eddie Johnson. "That along with racism have absolutely no place in the city of Chicago or anywhere else."

The unplanned attack came at the end of four days in which the victim and his school acquaintance Jordan Hill spent time together visiting friends.

Prior to being bound and assaulted, the victim "got into a play fight with Jordan and it escalated from there," Duffin said.

Before police had announced charges, thousands of social media users, including far-right commentators, claimed without offering evidence that the assault was linked to the Black Lives Matter movement born in protest at police shootings of African Americans.

Conservative US media personality Glenn Beck was among those who tied the attack directly to that movement, also known as BLM.

"Stand up with me and demand justice in Chicago for the beating of a disabled trump (sic) supporter by BLM," Beck tweeted Wednesday night.

Many similar messages were posted under the hashtag #BLMKidnapping.

Chicago-based civil rights leader Jesse Jackson issued a statement refuting any link to the movement.

"This uncivilized act of brutality broadcast on Facebook Live has nothing to do with our social or civil rights struggle. This is a sickness and is widely rejected," he said.

"No one affirms this insane and savage cruelty. It is a moral and spiritual collapse." Jedidiah Brown, an African-American community activist in Chicago, said on Facebook that the city's notorious gun violence epidemic, which claimed more than 750 lives in 2016, was part of the problem.

"We in Chicago have embraced such a violent culture," Brown said. "I think we're failing this next generation that's coming up behind us."

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