The family of a mentally disabled teen who is seen in a Facebook Live video being ruthlessly beaten and humiliated by four people have spoken out, a day after the shocking incident exploded into America's consciousness as another potential example of racial unrest.
Four people were charged after videos emerged that allegedly showed them beating, kicking, and even forcing the 18-year-old to drink from a toilet while cops say the suspects made comments disparaging white people and Donald Trump.
In a brief statement to the press after the victim made it back home, his family said they were "overwhelmed" but happy to have him home.
"This should never have happened," a family member said Thursday evening before he and the rest of the family concluded their remarks.
Jordan Hill, Tesfaye Cooper and Brittany Covington, all 18, and Tanishia Covington, 24, are accused of launching the savage attack on the 18-year-old, who cops say they beat and kicked for hours. They also made him drink toilet water and cut his hair and scalp over the course of the six-hour ordeal, police said.
Each is charged with a hate crime, among other alleged offenses.
In the aftermath, the incident caused enough fury to get a response from America's highest office. In an interview with a CBS Chicago correspondent, President Obama called the attack "despicable."
"What we have seen as surfacing, I think, are a lot of problems that have been there a long time," the president said. "Whether it’s tensions between police and communities, hate crimes of the despicable sort that has just now recently surfaced on Facebook."
As of Friday morning, President-elect Donald Trump has not spoken out on the incident.
The four suspects are all due in court Friday.
Police said the victim had been dropped off by his parents on December 31 at a McDonald’s restaurant in Streamwood, where he met one of the suspects, Jordan Hill, with whom he attended school for a period of time.
Hill stole a van and drove the victim to the city's West Side, where they visited friends, officials said.
They eventually went to the home of the Covington sisters, where the victim apparently got into a play fight with Hill that eventually escalated, police said.
"They get aggravated at him, tie him up," Police Commander Kevin Duffin said, noting that was when "racial slurs and the deference to his mental capacity started coming out."
The video was initially posted to Facebook Live and quickly spread on social media under the hashtag #BLMKidnapping.
BLM is an apparent reference to the Black Lives Matter movement, which condemned the act of violence.
"What happened to the young man who was held captive and tortured is terrible and we condemn the violence that was perpetrated against him. We've stated time and time again, that we're against all types of harm and violence perpetrated and we've never condoned it. So this is absolutely perplexing and twisted that people are associating this atrocity with this organization and movement," Black Lives Matter Chicago wrote on Facebook.
Eventually, the Covington sisters’ downstairs neighbor called the police complaining of the noise, which allegedly angered the women. They allegedly went downstairs to confront their neighbor, kicking in the door, and at the same time, giving the victim an opportunity to escape.
Police Officer Michael Donnelly said he saw the victim walking down the street with Hill and noticed the young man was only wearing a tank top that was inside out and backwards, a pair of jean shorts and sandals, and was also "bloodied [and] battered."
"He was injured, he was confused," Donnelly said, noting the investigation revealed the victim to be a missing and endangered person.
Authorities believe he was in the physical position pictured in the Facebook Live video — tied up and cowering in a corner as he was attacked — for about four or five hours.
"Thankfully the victim will recover from his injuries," Superintendent Johnson said.
In addition to the hate crime charge, the four suspects also face aggravated kidnapping, aggravated unlawful restraint and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.
Hill alone faces a robbery charge and a charge of possession of a stolen motor vehicle. The Covington sisters face residential burglary charges in connection to the incident involving their neighbor, during which they are accused of stealing an unknown item.