Two of the four suspects accused of torturing a Chicago special needs man on Facebook Live video are sisters.
Tanishia Covington, 24, is one of the four; she is the sister of Brittany Herring, the 18-year-old woman who initially streamed the Facebook Live video. (Brittany also sometimes uses the last name of Covington.)
The videos have sparked outrage throughout the nation and have been viewed by thousands, if not millions of people. In them, the suspects force the victim to say “f-ck Donald Trump” and accused him of being a Trump supporter while punching him, cutting his hair, and forcing him to drink from a toilet. They also make disparaging comments about white people on the videos.
The suspects are black, and the victim is white.
Charges were announced Thursday against the sisters, along with 18-year-olds Jordan Hill, 18 and Tesfaye Cooper, 18.
The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office said they are charged with aggravated kidnapping, aggravated unlawful restraint, aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and residential burglary. They are all also charged with hate crime, a charge police hesitated on committing to Wednesday night.
The most serious charge, aggravated kidnapping, carries a potential prison sentence of 30 years, with a minimum sentence of six years.
Hill is from Carpentersville, Illinois, while Cooper and the Covingtons are from Chicago.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Covington Has Expressed Support on Facebook for a Rap Group/Gang With Many Murdered Members
Several of the suspects have indicated support for rappers involved in a gang known as the Pooh Bear Gang or PGB, which is reportedly an offshoot of the Gangster Disciples, a large criminal organization, and they share its music.
Some of their friends on Facebook have posted repeatedly about PGB, as well as about a locally iconic slain rapper known as Young Pappy. Covington posted a memorial to a rapper named Mosey Duece, who was gunned down in a shooting shortly after he lamented on Facebook all of the violence that had taken his circle of friends. Memorials to Duece ,who was tied into the PGB group, are also common among some of her friends on Facebook. One of her friends wrote, “F-ck Munchie!!! We #YoungPappy😈 Gang!!!! #PBG #LiveFromMoseyWorld🌎”
The memorial to Duece that Covington posted:
The PBG gang – or Pooh Bear Gang – is a subset of the Chicago Gangster Disciples. Its leader, a rapper who went by the name of Young Pappy, was also gunned down in 2015. He had previously been the target of shootings that ended the lives of innocent bystanders instead, reported The Chicago Sun-Times. It’s a violent subculture.
Covington is a member of a group devoted to memorializing the slain gang member whose nickname, Pooh Bear, gave the gang and rap group its name. Her top two posts on Facebook were rap videos from members of the group. On one of them, she wrote, “Listen up like Trump.”
One video on the group’s YouTube Channel shows young men wielding large guns.
Covington’s posts are sometimes written in street slang.
“It’s so much money out here shorty u gotta get it KobeGirl,” she wrote recently. “Ok brought the new year in my sister lul Bit mfs not on our level so wait hold up u b-tches better slow up,” she wrote in another post. “Me and my kids gone be straight band up or die sorry for the wait,” she wrote in yet another.
“Im just boolin but all that sneakdissin need to stop mfs just need to get a life ok then maybe il slide ok bool,” said another recent post.
Since her identity was revealed, people have filled Covington’s Facebook page with angry comments – and in some cases threats and racist comments.
2. Covington Is a Young Mother & Lamented Her Dysfunctional Family
Covington wrote on Facebook, “My family been my downfall the whole time sh-t sad asl (sic).” She wrote noted, “My daughter 2 my son 11 months wow by the time they 5 we gone be straight period.” One picture of a young child shows him appearing to flash a sign with his hand.
She also wrote, “Me and my kids got a whole life ahead of us we wouldnt have Gods blessings if we didnt suffer and work hard first.” Although some of her posts are about her children, others are about partying.
One December 28, she wrote, “I love being a adult being a mother and being independent.” Her profile says, “Long Live Loyalty i jumpd offda porchNwent North Artist and Leader Northpole Princess Momof3😍 KDwife.”
A friend responded, shortly before the Facebook video gained extensive media attention, “You yo own downfall I’m highly disappointed in you frfr I f-cked with you hard no matter what but that sh-t y’all did yesterday was f-cked up and stupid I can’t f-ck wit you no more frfr.”
Although one of the suspects mentioned Trump in the video, Chicago’s police superintendent said he didn’t think the crime was motivated by politics. “I think some of it is just stupidity, people just ranting about something that they think might make a headline. I don’t think that at this point we have anything concrete to really point us in that direction, but we’ll keep investigating and we’ll let the facts guide us on how this concludes,” he said.
There is no evidence from Tanishia’s social media presence that she was politically active.
3. Chicago Police Found the Victim Wandering Around Disoriented
Police said in a statement that “patrol officers observed a disoriented male walking 3400 W. Lexington on January 3, 2017 who was then transported to an area hospital for treatment.”
At 5:26 p.m., officers subsequently responded to a battery at a residence on the 3300 block of W. Lexington “where they discovered signs of a struggle and damage to the property and (were) able to link this evidence to the disoriented male,” the police statement said.
You can watch the police news conference on the incident here:
Officers later “became aware of a social media video depicting a battery of an adult male which is believed to be the same individual. At this point CPD believes the video is credible and detectives are questioning persons of interest in the case.”
Chicago police said the victim, whom police believe is from a neighboring suburb and may have known the suspects through high school, “was transported to an area hospital in stable condition. The investigation is ongoing.”
Captain Steven Sesso, who is the commanding officer of the 11th District, said “alert 11th District officers encountered” the victim and added that it “didn’t feel right, the situation. They saw clearly this individual was in distress, that he was in crisis. And they cared enough to do something about it.”
Detective Commander Kevin Duffin referred to the victim as “an acquaintance” of one of the suspects from high school and said they “met in the suburbs, the subjects then stole a van out in the suburbs and drove him into Chicago.” That suspect was Hill, police said.
Police had said victim “was missing from Crystal Lake,” the Chicago Tribune reported.
4. The Viral Videos Show the Man Being Tortured
In the first Facebook Live video, which is very lengthy, you see the man gagged, and some of the suspects cut his sweatshirt sleeves with knives as music plays in the background. The victim’s name has not been released.
The video was first streamed live on the Facebook page of Covington’s sister, a young woman named Brittany Herring (who sometimes also uses the last name Covington,and who laughs during the video as other suspects say such things as “F-ck Donald Trump. F-ck white people, boy.” He is seen being kicked and punched.
They cut off pieces of the victim’s hair and order him to stand up, while the woman streaming the video calls him a “b-tch as- white thug.” At one point, Herring says that her little sister “said it’s not funny,” but she added, “This sh-t is hilarious.”
In a second video, the suspects for the victim to drink from a toilet and to say “f-ck Donald Trump.”
An NBC5 reporter wrote on Twitter, “Man in torture video was reported missing by parents who then got text messages from captors. Police then found Facebook Posts.”
5. Covington Has a Past Arrest History
The Chicago police arrest history website shows three past arrests for Covington:
Tanishia Covington was caught previously in a stolen vehicle. The Chicago Tribune reported that she was also accused in 2014 of domestic battery and endangering a child “for slapping a woman twice in the face as the woman held a 10-month-old infant.” Brittany was accused of stealing liquor, but the case was dismissed, the Tribune reported.
Three other suspects were also charged January 5.
Read more about this video in Spanish at AhoraMismo.com: