Four people accused of kidnapping and torturing a mentally disabled man inside of a West Side apartment building were ordered held without bail by a Cook County judge last Friday, according to media reports.
Jordan Hill, 18, of Carpentersville, and Tesfaye Cooper, 18, Brittany Covington, 28, and Tunisia Covington, 24 — all of Chicago — can be seen in a live video posted to Facebook last Wednesday kicking, stabbing, punching, slapping and taunting an 18-year-old who prosecutors said has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and schizophrenia.
During the 28-minute video, one of the four offenders says “F— Donald Trump” and “F— white people” as the victim, an 18-year-old white male, crouches in a defensive position, his hands apparently tied together with electrical tape.
Last Thursday, the four African-American defendants were each charged with hate crime, aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, aggravated kidnapping and aggravated unlawful restraint. Hill was charged with possession of a stolen motor vehicle, robbery and, along with Cooper and Covington, residential burglary, police say.
At a press conference last week, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson called the actions in the video “reprehensible” and that they, “along with racism, have no place in the City of Chicago or anywhere else, for that matter.”
According to police, the 18-year-old suburban man had been picked up on Dec. 31 in a van Hill had reportedly stolen in Streamwood. The victim, police say, didn’t know the van was stolen. Hill used the van to drive himself and the victim to the West Side, where they would eventually end up at the Covingtons’ apartment on the 3300 block of West Lexington Street.
According to numerous media reports, the torturing happened after the victim and Hill had gotten into a “play fight” that escalated into a more serious confrontation. Hill reportedly stole the victim’s phone and demanded that his mother pay a $300 ransom.
Authorities believe that the victim may have been tortured for several hours before a 911 call made by downstairs neighbors who were disturbed by the noise tipped off the police.
Assistant State’s Attorney Erin Antonietti described for reporters the graphic video footage, which has since been taken off of from Facebook.
Someone, Antonietti said, “shoves the victim’s face into a toilet bowl and the victim is told to drink toilet water. The victim is punched in the head. The victim is screaming ‘no’ in fear when the male walks over to him with a knife and states, ‘Should I shank his a**?'”
After the offenders ran from the apartment in attempt to evade the police, the victim escaped and police eventually found the boy walking less than a block away from the apartment, bloodied and disoriented.
The crime precipitated a national wave of outrage, particularly among right-wing media personalities, who almost immediately attempted to connect the attack to the Black Lives Matter movement — despite the lack of evidence showing a connection.
The condemnation of the attacks, however, was universal, crossing political and ideological lines. During a recent interview with CBS 2, President Barack Obama called the video “despicable.”
“What we have seen as surfacing, I think, are a lot of problems that have been there a long time,” Obama said. “Whether it’s tensions between police and communities [or] hate crimes of the despicable sort that has just now recently surfaced on Facebook, I take these things very seriously.”
Obama also struck a note of optimism, adding, “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.”
In the wake of the video, a slate of national media outlets have converged on the West Side. Speaking to USA Today, West Side pastors Rev. Ira Acree and Marshall Hatch both urged calm and reconciliation.
“My church members have called me sickened by what they saw in the torture of the young man in our community,” said Hatch. “The residents want others to know that their hearts are touched and want give to help the healing of the victim.”
“There is no excuse for kidnap and abuse,” said Acree. “Our phones are ringing … people want to help. Many of our families have children with special needs and feel it could have been their family.”