A Chicago judge sounded baffled when he chided the four young African-American adults who were seen on a Facebook live video beating a mentally ill white teenager while shouting obscenities about President-elect Donald Trump.
“Where was your sense of decency?” Cook County Circuit Judge Maria Kuriakos Ciesil asked them on Friday when they appeared in court for the first time, the Associated Press reported.
Tesfaye Cooper, Brittany Covington, Jordan Hill, all 18, and Tanishia Covington, 24, were charged with hate crimes on Thursday, not long after the video went viral online. Ciesil denied their attorneys’ requests to set bail, saying she believes all four were “a danger to yourself and society,” WREG reported.
The graphic footage shows a young man crouching in a corner – his wrists and neck bound with orange bands and his mouth taped shut – while he was being taunted with profanities about white people and Trump.
A young woman films as two young men slash the sleeves of the victim’s shirt with knives and take turns punching him, slapping him and stomping on his head. At one point, one man can be seen cutting the victim’s hair and a piece of his scalp with a knife, and the victim is later shown bleeding from his injuries.
While the victim can be seen cowering with his back to the wall, another voice can be heard repeatedly shouting, “F— Donald Trump” and “F— white people.”
Chicago Area North Detectives Commander Kevin Duffin told reporters at a briefing Thursday afternoon that the suspects admitted beating the 18-year-old victim and forcing him to drink toilet water.
About halfway through the 28-minute video, someone can be heard saying the victim “represents Trump,” and threatens to put him in the trunk of a car and “put a brick on the gas.”
The assault lasted for five hours, authorities said. The victim, who is schizophrenic and has attention-deficit disorder, was later found wandering in Chicago, bloodied, disoriented and wearing only a tank top, jean shorts and sandals, despite the city’s frigid January temperatures.
Police say the still-unnamed victim’s parents dropped him off on Dec. 31 at a McDonald’s in a Chicago suburb where he met up with Hill, an acquaintance from school.
The victim, who’s from Crystal Lake, Illinois, about 50 miles outside of Chicago, later called his parents to tell them he was staying with Hill for a sleepover. Instead, Hill took the teenager to Chicago’s West Side in what turned out to be a stolen van, and they drove around the area for a couple of days, police say.
The victim’s parents reported him missing on Monday evening, two days after they last heard from him, the AP reported.
On Tuesday, Hill drove to a home near Homan Square on the West Side, where Brittany and Tanishia Covington lived and where the victim was tormented for several hours. The victim told police that a play fight with Hill escalated and the Covington sisters got “aggravated at him,” Duffin said. The victim later managed to escape, and police found him walking on a Chicago street.
Prosecutors offered new details on Friday, saying one of the suspects demanded $300 from the victim’s mother, the AP reported. They also said that the assault began in the van when the same suspect became angry that the mother had contacted him asking him to let her son come home.
The four also are charged with aggravated kidnapping, aggravated battery and aggravated unlawful restraint.
A GoFundMe campaign intended to help the victim and his family has surpassed its goal of $10,000, raising more than $125,000 in three days.
“For those of you that have seen the horrific torture and trauma recently inflicted on a young man in Chicago, it is not something you will soon forget,” California resident Razor Sheldon, who started the campaign, wrote on the website.
In an update on Saturday, Sheldon wrote that he’d been in contact with the victim’s family, who told him that the teen is “a little sore and moving slowly, but he has been more alert and has been enjoying food again.”
Bart Jackson, a spokesperson for GoFundMe, told The Washington Post that funds raised from the campaign started by Sheldon will be transferred directly to the victim’s family. The campaign organizer does not have access to the funds, Jackson said.
“I can confirm I did touch base with the family and they are working directly with GoFundMe,” Jackson said in an email.
The incident comes just as Chicago capped off one of its bloodiest years, with the homicide rate reaching its highest in two decades.
President Barack Obama condemned the attack on Thursday, calling it “despicable” in an interview with CBS News. But the president said it’s not an indication of deteriorating race relations in the U.S., adding that tensions that have long existed are simply more pronounced today because of smartphones, the internet and social media.
“The good news is that the next generation that’s coming behind us … have smarter, better, more thoughtful attitudes about race,” Obama said. “I think the overall trajectory of race relations in this country is actually very positive. It doesn’t mean that all racial problems have gone away. It means that we have the capacity to get better.”
(c) 2017, The Washington Post · Kristine Guerra