CHICAGO: The two 18-year-old men had been schoolmates, police say. After meeting at McDonald’s, they spent two days together, driving around visiting friends. Then a pretend fight escalated into a brutal beating of one of the men, a mentally disabled teenager, in an attack that stirred racial tensions and outrage after being broadcast on Facebook Live. How the white suburban teenager ended up beaten by the four black suspects, threatened with a knife and taunted with profanities against white people and President-elect Donald Trump is among the puzzles authorities are still trying to piece together after the suspects were charged with hate crimes.
The alleged attackers will make their first court appearance yesterday, a day after they were also charged with kidnapping and battery in connection to the attack. The beating was captured on cellphone video by one of the assailants and has since viewed millions of times on social media. “This should never have happened,” David Boyd, the victim’s brother-inlaw, said at a brief news conference in suburban Chicago. He said the victim was traumatized but doing as well as could be expected. Neal Strom, a family spokesman, told The Associated Press the victim has had “profound emotional and physical disabilities throughout his life.” He did not elaborate. Police said drug use may have been involved in the incident.
The video shows the two female suspects smoking cigars that authorities “presume to be blunts” while the victim is tied up and racial slurs and references “to his mental capacity starts coming out,” Chicago Police Commander Kevin Duffin said. The uproar over the beating has intensified the glare on Chicago after a bloody year of violent crime and protests against Mayor Rahm Emanuel and a police department that has been accused of brutality and hushing-up wrongdoing. The department has also been the subject of a long civil-rights investigation by the Justice Department, which is expected to report its findings soon.
The incident also stirred emotions still raw after a nasty presidential election campaign that split the nation. The case heightened political tensions on social media, with some conservatives suggesting it was linked to the Black Lives Matter movement. Police said there was no indication of any connection. The cruelty of the attack and the intense social media exposure prompted President Barack Obama to respond, calling it “despicable.” “I take these things very seriously,” he told Chicago’s WBBM-TV on Thursday. But he said the incident does not mean that race relations have gotten worse. —AP