CHICAGO — (CNN) Four young people accused of torturing a Chicago special-needs teen and broadcasting the incident on Facebook Live were ordered held without bail Friday afternoon.
The four suspects face hate crime, kidnapping, unlawful restraint and battery charges for their alleged role in the attack. A judge denied them bail during their first court appearance.
Family members of the teen who was kidnapped and tortured say they’re overwhelmed by the national outpouring over the case.
“We’re happy that everyone’s concerned. This should never happen,” brother-in-law David Boyd told reporters.
Flanked by somber relatives who stood arm-in-arm, Boyd told reporters the teen is doing “as well as he could be at this time.”
And the family, he said, is trying to stick together and is asking the public for prayers and privacy.
Hate crime charges
Video of the attack shows the 18-year-old victim cowering in a corner of a room, tied up with his mouth bound in plastic. An assailant slashes his sweatshirt with a knife. A woman streaming the abuse on Facebook Live repeatedly turns the camera back to herself. An attacker then takes a knife to the victim’s head, carving a patch off his scalp.
For the next 25 minutes, the abuse continues for the world to see. The victim is repeatedly kicked and punched, but his screams are apparently ignored.
The graphic footage has stunned the country, not just because of the abuse, but because of the comments made by some of the assailants.
“*F*ck Donald Trump!” one attacker shouted in the video. “F*ck white people!”
Police said the department pursued a hate crime charge because of the victim’s diminished mental capacity, the fact that the four suspects tied him up and the racial epithets heard on the video. The victim is white; the suspects are African-American.
Jordan Hill, 18; Tesfaye Cooper; 18; Brittany Covington, 18; and Tanishia Covington, 24, have each been charged with a hate crime, felony aggravated kidnapping, aggravated unlawful restraint and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.
Hill, Cooper and Brittany Covington also face charges of residential burglary. Hill faces an additional charge of possession of a stolen motor vehicle.
Obama weighs in
President Barack Obama called the video “despicable.”
It’s the latest example, he told CNN affiliate WBBM, of horrifying realities bubbling beneath the surface that social media has helped expose.
“What we have seen as surfacing, I think, are a lot of problems that have been there a long time, whether it’s tensions between police and communities, whether it’s hate crimes of the despicable sort that has just now recently surfaced on Facebook,” Obama said.
Police: No link with Black Lives Matter
Although there is no evidence to support the claim, the far-right quickly pointed the finger at the Black Lives Matter movement as the video spread on social media. Within 24 hours, the hashtag #BLMKidnapping was mentioned more than 480,000 times on Twitter.
Police have said there’s no connection between the activist group and the horrific video.
Neither the Black Lives Matter national organization nor its Chicago chapter responded to CNN’s requests for comment Thursday.
DeRay Mckesson, a prominent Black Lives Matter supporter, said those linking the attack to the movement don’t have their facts straight.
“It goes without saying that the actions being branded by the far-right as the ‘BLM Kidnapping’ have nothing to do w/ the movement,” he tweeted.
A former Chicago police officer, Dimitri Roberts, slammed the notion that the Black Lives Matter movement is to blame.
“This is hate. And hate doesn’t have a color,” Roberts said. “So for folks to talk about this is somehow connected to Black Lives Matter is absolutely the wrong way to look at this. … And we cannot respond to hate with hate. It’s just going to perpetuate the cycle.”
How the encounter began
The victim’s parents dropped him off at a McDonald’s in the Chicago suburb of Schaumburg on Saturday.
He was supposed to spend New Year’s Eve with Hill, whom he considered a friend and knew from school, and then return home the next day.
But instead, police said, Hill picked the teen up in a stolen van and drove him around for several days before bringing him to the apartment where he was tied up and tortured.
By then, his parents had reported him missing, and they began getting text messages from someone claiming to be holding him captive.
The victim was eventually able to escape, and police found him on the street wearing an inside-out tank top, shorts and sandals on a cold winter day.
“He was bloodied, he was battered,” Officer Michael Donnelly said. “He was very discombobulated.”
While investigating the text messages sent to the victim’s parents, police discovered the Facebook video. It’s unclear what alerted the police to check Facebook.
After viewing the video, investigators determined the victim was the teen found on the street — and that the people arrested were involved, police said.