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Chicago: Hate Crime, Kidnapping Charges for Facebook Live Torture of Mentally Disabled Man

From L to R: Tesfaye Cooper, Brittany Covington, Jordan Hill and Tanishia Covington have all been charged with hate and other crimes in connection with the kidnapping and Facebook Live torture of a mentally disabled man in Chicago. (Photo: Chicago Police Dep’t.)

Four Chicago-area young adults, all African American, have been charged with a hate crime, aggravated kidnapping and other offenses after allegedly posting a Facebook Live video in which they tortured a mentally disabled man while shouting racial slurs.

The Chicago Tribune reports Jordan Hill, 18, of Carpentersville, Tesfaye Cooper, 18, of Chicago, Brittany Covington, 18, of Chicago and Tanishia Covington, 24, of Chicago were charged with aggravated kidnapping, hate crime, aggravated unlawful restraint and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon on Thursday.

The charges were filed after a disturbing 30-minute video showing a 18-year-old mentally disabled man who appears to be white who is tied up and gagged with duct tape and is viciously assaulted by attackers who gleefully shout “fuck Donald Trump” and “fuck white people.” The victim is punched, kicked and cut with a knife, including on his forehead. Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson told reporters the video shows a “brutal act toward an adult male with mental health challenges” and said that additional video showing the victim being forced to drink from a toilet had been found.

“It’s sickening,” Johnson said. “It’s sickening. You know, it makes you wonder what would make indiduals treat somebody like that.”

WGN reports Chicago police say officers observed a disoriented male in “distress” wandering in the 3400 block of West Lexington at about 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday. After interviewing the victim, officers proceeded to a nearby home where they say they found “signs of a struggle and damage to property” which they connected to the distressed man, who informed officers he knew one of his assailants.

“Officers later became aware of a social media video depicting a battery of an adult male which is believed to be the same individual,” Chicago police said in a statement. Police initially said that while the four black suspects made “terrible racist statements” during the assault, they believed the unnamed victim was attacked because he has “special needs.” It is unclear whether the hate crime charge stems from the victim’s race or ability status; both are protected under Illinois’ hate crime statute.

CBS reports the victim, who was reported missing by relatives in Crystal Lake, 50 miles (80 km) northwest of Chicago, was a classmate of one of his alleged attackers. Investigators said the victim was at his captors’ mercy for two days and was still reeling from his horrific ordeal. “He’s traumatized by the incident and it’s very tough to communicate with him at this point,” Chicago Police Cmdr. Kevin Duffin told reporters.

“It makes you wonder what would make individuals treat somebody like that,” Sup. Johnson is quoted by the Tribune.. “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. I’m not going to say it shocked me but it was sickening.”

Some conservative and pro-Trump commentators accused the mainstream media of attempting to downplay the front-page story. “If this had been done to an African American by four whites, every liberal in the country would be outraged, and there’d be no question but that it’s a hate crime,” former House speaker and presidential candidate Newt Gingrich said on Fox News, according to the Washington Post.

Other conservatives blamed the civil rights movement Black Lives Matter for the attack, with the hashtag #BLMKidnapping trending on Twitter on Thursday. However, Chicago police stressed they have found nothing linking the suspects to Black Lives Matter or any other group. “At this time, there is no indication that it’s linked to any specific group,” Chicago Police spokesman Frank Giancamilli told reporters on Thursday.

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