Jordan Hill, 18, of Carpentersville; Tesfaye Cooper, 18, of Chicago; Brittany Covington, 18, of Chicago; and Tanishia Covington, 24, of Chicago; were each charged with aggravated kidnapping, hate crime, aggravated unlawful restraint, aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and residential burglary, according to the Cook County state’s attorney. Hill was also charged with robbery and possession of a stolen motor vehicle.
In a press conference Thursday afternoon, Chicago police detectives laid out the timeline of events they said led up to the video showing the victim tied up, kicked, beaten, yelled at, slashed and forced to drink toilet water.Police said they don’t know the motive behind the apparent torture or the suspects’ decision to film it. At one point, the teens, who are black, told the victim, who is white, to say he loves black people.
Police said they investigated the attack as a hate crime and said the state’s attorney agreed by approving their charges.
“Let me be very clear, the actions in that video are reprehensible. That alone with racism have absolutely no place in the city of Chicago or anywhere else for that matter,” Supt. Eddie Johnson said.
The victim, who is from northwest suburban Crystal Lake, was reported missing from nearby Streamwood by his parents on Monday. Police said they had not heard from him since Saturday, when they dropped him off at the McDonald’s near Schaumburg and Barrington roads to meet up for a sleepover with Hill. Police said the two were “acquaintances” who met at a school in Aurora.
Unbeknownst to the victim, investigators said Hill had stolen a van prior to picking up the victim. The pair then drove around for the next two days, visiting friends and sleeping in the van. It wasn’t until Tuesday that police said Hill brought the victim to an apartment in the 3400-block of West Lexington Avenue in the Homan Square neighborhood on Chicago’s West Side.
Investigators said the victim told them he got into a “play fight” with Hill that escalated when two of Hill’s acquaintances, the Covington sisters, became aggravated with him.
“That’s when they tie him up and when the racial slurs and, you know, the deference to his mental capacity starts coming out. That’s primarily one of the reasons they were charged with the hate crime,” said Cmdr. Kevin Duffin, Chicago Police Dept.
Police said the victim was left tied up in the corner for four to five hours. Streamwood police victim’s parents told officers they had received text messages from people who claimed to be holding him captive.
When a downstairs neighbor complained about the noise and threatened to call 911, police said the Covington sisters kicked in her door and stole something. That prompted the neighbor to call police and gave the victim the opportunity to escape, investigators said.
Police said an officer came upon the victim wandering on Lexington wearing a tank top inside out and backwards, jean shorts and sandals. He was observed by an officer to be confused and bleeding, who later learned he had been reported missing two days earlier in Streamwood.
“He was bloodied and battered and due to the cold weather conditions, I approached him for a field interview,” said Officer Michael Donnelly, Chicago Police Dept. “He was discombobulated, he was injured, he was confused and at which time I called an ambulance.”
Investigators said they decided to pursue hate crime charges considering the “totality” of the victim’s diminished mental capacity, the fact that he was bound, and racist statements made on video.
A Facebook spokesperson released this statement Thursday: “We do not allow people to celebrate or glorify crimes on Facebook and have removed the original video for this reason. In many instances, though, when people share this type of content, they are doing so to condemn violence or raise awareness about it. In that case, the video would be allowed.”
Facebook’s community standards with regard to Facebook Live state, “We understand the unique challenges of live video. We know it’s important to have a responsible approach. That’s why we make it easy for people to report live videos to us as they’re happening. We have a team on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, dedicated to responding to these reports immediately.”
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Thursday he has not spoken to President Obama about whether he’s seen the video, but said he’s “confident he’d be angered by the images that are depicted on that video.” Earnest described the images as “disturbing” and said they demonstrate “a level of depravity that is an outrage to a lot of Americans.”
Police said the victim is now at home in Crystal Lake and is expected to make a full recovery.
All four suspects will appear in bond court around 1:30 p.m. Friday.
ABC 7 Chicago