President Obama condemned the hate-crime torture attack on a mentally disabled Illinois teen, calling the live-streamed assault is a “despicable” crime — but it doesn’t mean racial tensions are getting worse, he said.
On the same day that four black suspects were charged with hate crimes for kidnapping and abusing a white 18-year-old with special news, Obama said social media has only highlighted existing problems in race relations, not created new ones.
“I don’t think it’s accurate to say that race relations have gotten worse,” he told CBS Chicago Thursday. “Because of smart phones and the Internet and media — what we’ve seen as surfacing, I think, a lot of problems that have been there a long time.”
He continued: “Whether it’s tensions between police and communities, hate crimes of the despicable sort that has just now recently surfaced on Facebook — I take these things very seriously.”
Chicago police have maintained that the unidentified teen was targeted because of his special needs, not because of his race.
The four suspects — Jordan Hill, 18, Tesfaye Cooper, 18, and sisters Brittany Covington, 18, and 24-year-old Tanishia Covington — have all been charged with hate crimes, kidnapping, aggravated battery and aggravated unlawful restraint.
Hill, who knew his victim from school, met up with the teen at a Chicago-area McDonalds on Saturday, police said. Both the teen and his parents thought he was going to have a New Year’s Eve sleepover with Hill.
Instead, Hill drove the boy to a Chicago home where two of the other suspects live. There, the four suspects started play-fighting, the victim said — but the innocent fun turned into an hours-long torture session.
The suspects threatened the teen with a knife and forced him to drink from a toilet, police said. They broadcast parts of the marathon torture session on Facebook Live video.
In the video, at least one of the suspects is heard shouting, “F–k white people!” and “F–k Donald Trump!”
The teen’s parents reported their son missing on Monday. A day later, the teen was able to escape from the horror house. Police found him in distress, wandering around the neighborhood.
All four suspects are due in court Friday.