Chicago: Four blacks charged with hate crime and kidnapping

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Four black people face hate crime and kidnapping charges for the Facebook Live-aired torture of a mentally disabled white man.

Jordan Hill, Brittany Covington and Tesfaye Cooper, all 18, and 24-year-old Tanishia Covington are expected to appear in a Chicago court on Friday.

In the video, the assailants can be heard making derogatory statements against white people and Donald Trump.

Chicago police have described the incident as “sickening”.

Cook County prosecutors have also charged the suspects with aggravated unlawful restraint and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.

Mr Hill is further charged with robbery and possession of a stolen motor.

All the suspects, apart from Tanishia Covington, each face an additional count of residential burglary.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the attack demonstrates “a level of depravity that is an outrage to a lot of Americans”.

He said he has not yet spoken to Barack Obama about the incident in his hometown of Chicago, but added that he is confident the president “would be angered by the images that are depicted on that video”.

In an assault that went on for two days in a flat on the Illinois city’s west side, the victim was made to drink from a toilet bowl, had part of his scalp removed with a knife, and was bound, gagged and beaten.

The unnamed 18-year-old – a school acquaintance of one of the alleged attackers – was found disorientated and traumatised, walking the streets.

He was taken to hospital and had difficulty communicating with police, but was later discharged.

“I’ve been a cop for 28 years,” said Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson, “and I’ve seen things that you shouldn’t see in a lifetime, but it still amazes me how you still see things that you just shouldn’t.”

Another police spokesman said earlier that the four suspects had made “terrible racist statements” during the assault.

But he said investigators suspect the victim was targeted because he has “special needs”, not because he is white.

In the 30-minute video, the attackers can be seen cutting the victim’s clothes, dropping cigarette ash on him, pushing his head back with a foot and drawing blood by cutting off some of his hair with a knife.

Several people can be seen drinking, laughing and smoking, while their captive cowers in the corner of the room.

In other videos posted online the young man is forced at knife-point to say: “I love black people”.

An African-American woman talks to the camera, sometimes with slurred speech.

But the grandmother of one of the young women charged in relation to the attack said her granddaughter is “a good person” who has had her “ups and downs”.

Priscilla Covington said the video does not reflect the young woman she said she had raised since she was a baby.

The incident has provoked a strong reaction on Twitter, especially among the alt-right – the fringe group that celebrated US President-elect Trump’s election win with Nazi salutes.

They said the mainstream media was slower to react, and the police more hesitant to label it a hate crime, than if a black person had been assaulted by white people.

The hashtag #BLMKidnapping was adopted by users suggesting the Black Lives Matter campaign was in some way involved.

But police have not mentioned the organisation in connection with the incident.


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