Hate crime charges filed against 4 in Facebook Live torture case

CHICAGO -- Four people were charged Thursday in connection with the apparent torture of an 18-year-old man with special needs that was streamed live on Facebook. They each face several other charges.

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.

The video shows the victim being forced to drink toilet water, tied up, slashed, beaten and yelled at.

"Bro look. (Screaming). Get to the corner, put your hands against the wall, bro," one of the attackers said.

The victim was reported missing by his parents on Monday. Police said they had not heard from him since Saturday.

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Chicago police said the victim encountered one of the suspects on Monday - apparently someone he'd met before - and he was driven into Chicago. They did not say which suspect that was.

"He is an acquaintance of one of these subjects. They stole a van and brought him to Chicago," Area North CPD Commander Kevin Duffin said Wednesday.

The manager said he did not see the 18-year-old leave with anyone, so he doesn't know when he came into contact with the group.

The victim's parents told officers they had received text messages from people who claimed to be holding him captive. During their investigation, Streamwood investigators found the disturbing video on Facebook, which showed he had been verbally and physically abused.

They were then notified by Chicago police that the young man had been found Tuesday wandering in distress in the 3400-block of West Lexington Street in the city's Homan Square neighborhood on the West Side. They said he was clearly traumatized.

Then investigators determined that between the time he'd been reported missing and when he was seen wandering, the victim was held between 24 and 48 hours by the group.

Police said they don't know the motive behind the apparent torture or the suspects' decision to film it. But they investigated the attack as a hate crime. At one point, the teens, who are black, told the victim, who is white, to say he loves black people.

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."

A joint investigation between Streamwood police and Chicago police is ongoing.
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