Chicago police have identified two of several juvenile suspects who they say participated in the sexual assault of a 15-year-old girl that was broadcast live on Facebook.
One of the suspects, a 14-year-old, was arrested Saturday and is facing felony charges of aggravated criminal sexual assault, manufacturing of child pornography and dissemination of child pornography. Police have not arrested the other suspect, a 15-year-old, but authorities say they expect to do so soon.
Police announced the developments on the investigation at a press conference on Sunday.
The girl went missing on March 19 and was lured into a residence where she was sexually assaulted by a group of male juveniles while one streamed the attack on Facebook Live, said Cmdr. Brendan Deenihan, of the Chicago Police Department.
“From there, she was not allowed to leave and she didn’t consent to what occurred,” Deenihan said, adding that the victim knew one of the suspects.
Investigators were alerted the following day when the girl’s mother approached Chicago police Superintendent Eddie Johnson at a local precinct and showed him screenshot images from the video. Police said the girl was found on the street on March 21 and was taken to a hospital.
One of the girl’s relatives told the Chicago Tribune that a teenager told him about the Facebook Live video. The girl’s mother was shown the screenshots and was able to identify her daughter, the Tribune reported.
The victim’s family told police that as many as 40 people watched the live stream without calling 911.
Deenihan said several videos are involved and investigators are still combing through social media posts to identify the other suspects. He said the girl has had “such a difficult time” talking to investigators about what had happened.
Deenihan declined to say how many other suspects police are looking for, but the AP reported that as many as six male juveniles are suspected of being involved. More arrests are expected, police say.
During the press conference, Johnson condemned not only the suspects, but also those who chose to not call authorities.
“The young men responsible – they should ashamed of themselves. They’ve humiliated themselves. They’ve humiliated their families. And now they’re going to be held accountable for what they did,” he said.
“It just disgusts me that people would look at those videos and not pick up the phone and dial 911,” Johnson added. “It makes you wonder. Where are we going as a society?”
After the girl was found, neighborhood kids came to her home looking for her, her mother told the Associated Press. Deenihan said the teen also became the target of “bullying” on social media.
“People are really making fun of the victim and (making) just a lot of off-color comments about what’s occurred,” he told reporters.
The Post typically does not name victims of sexual assault. Police did not release the names of the two suspects they’ve identified.
This is the second time in less than six months that Chicago police have investigated an alleged attack broadcast live on Facebook.
In January, a group of young African-Americans was charged with hate crimes after police say a Facebook Live video showed the youths assaulting a mentally disabled 18-year-old while shouting obscenities about President Donald Trump and white people.
The teen, who is white, can be seen sitting in a corner, his wrists and neck bound with orange bands and his mouth taped shut, The Post’s Mark Berman and Derek Hawkins reported. A young woman filmed as the others slapped, punch and taunted the 18-year-old, according to police. One of the young men can be seen cutting the victim’s hair and scalp with a knife.
In December, a Georgia teenager hanged herself and broadcast her suicide on a streaming app called Live.me. The 40-minute video, which showed the girl talking about being sexually assaulted by a family member, appeared on various sites, including Facebook and YouTube. Both sites have taken the video down, but according to media reports, versions of the video lingered on Facebook for nearly two weeks.
In July, Facebook acknowledged that while live video can be a powerful tool to document events, sharing – and allowing – videos on the platform must be done responsibly.
(c) 2017, The Washington Post · Kristine Phillips