Police are investigating allegations that the brutal murder of a young Canadian woman was streamed on Facebook Live.
Serena McKay, 19, of the Sagkeeng First Nation, was beaten to death northeast of Winnipeg.
Two teenage girls are accused in the horrific beating death. A disturbing video that purports to show the murder is circulating on social media, continuing a troubling trend of Facebook Live crimes that have become the modern-day equivalent of snuff films or Hunger Games‘ style rituals.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Police Are Reviewing the Disturbing Video That Shows a Woman Being Beaten
There’s a horrific video on social media, but police are stopping short of saying it features McKay. However, a school official contends it shows the young woman.
Heavy has seen the video but has made the decision not to run it. One woman wrote on Facebook: “Family of Serena Mckay 😇😢💜 asked that people not to share video or look at it..it is truamatizing (sic) and very tragic about what happened. Let her rest in peace.”
The suspects in the death attended high school with McKay, according to CBC, and the principal spoke to Canadian media about the video.
Principal Claude Guimond told CBC that “a short video that has been circulating on Facebook in recent days shows what he described as a violent assault on McKay. He said he believes drugs were involved in the attack.”
“After seeing what I saw on the video, you know what? There’s nobody in their right mind [that] would do something like that, unless they were extremely high on whatever and just totally, like, out of it,” he said to CBC News.
CTV News reports that Facebook took down the video. Heavy has reviewed versions posted online, and they show a badly beaten young woman lying on the ground. She is hit over and over again, including on the head, as female voices use expletives. “I don’t want to f*cking see her alive,” one girl says as the sickening thuds from the beating are heard, and you can see the victim’s bloodied face. The sound of bones cracking can be heard on the video.
According to Winnipeg Free Press, “The video, likely taken with a cellphone, shows a person wearing a boot repeatedly kicking at a woman trying to shield her bloodied face with her hand and arm as another person jumps in to pull back the victim’s arm.”
A woman who made a memorial video of photos of McKay alive wrote on Facebook, “No one deserves to have to go the way she did.. rest easy girl.. stay flying high angel ❤😇 September 30th 1997. April 22nd 2017.. heres a longer video to remember.. ❤ my heart goes out to all your family.. i just want everyone to forget the brutal video that’s been going around.. please share for awareness that we have justice..” You can watch the video at the end of this article.
People expressed shock online.
CBC reports that two videos have circulated in the death; the longer version sat on Facebook for several hours on April 26.
Serena’s friends have tried to encourage people to remember her life, not her death. Here are photos of Serena from a memorial montage:
2. Serena’s Beaten Body Was Found Near a Home in Sagkeeng & a Suspect Is Accused of Writing Instant Messages About the Death
McKay was reported missing on Sunday, April 23, and about two hours later, her body was found near a home in Sagkeeng, according to Huffington Post Canada.
Police haven’t said much about the death, but they revealed that two teenage girls are in custody and accused of murdering McKay. According to CBC, “Two girls from McKay’s school, aged 16 and 17, have since been charged with second-degree murder in connection with her death.”
The girls have not been named because of Canada’s strict rules regarding juvenile crime publication. However, reported CBC, “All three teenagers attended the same Sagkeeng Anicinabe High School, although McKay lived in the neighbouring community of Powerview-Pine Falls.” Other high school students alerted officials to the video’s existence, especially after it circulated on Facebook Messenger, the news site reported.
The Winnipeg Free Press reports that it received an instant message exchange from “a resident of the reserve” in which one of the alleged suspects writes at first, “We fought, I broke her nose then that happened, she left after, she was OK. She was up and walking.”
A few hours later, reports the newspaper, the suspect wrote, “She was found dead bro… Promise me say when we fought it wasn’t that bad. Her nose was just bleeding lots… I’m f—in scared. Promise me, you won’t tell em I fought her deadly. Please bro… Say after we closed the door, she left.”
Huffington Post reports that the area has seen other tragedies, such as the death of “15-year-old Tina Fontaine, whose body was pulled from the Red River in Winnipeg in 2014.” According to CBC, “A 2015 CBC analysis found that Sagkeeng First Nation was home to the highest number of outstanding cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women.”
CTV confirmed: “Chief Derrick Henderson said Sagkeeng has the highest number of cases involving missing and murdered indigenous women and girls in the country.”
The chief told Winnipeg Free Press of the video: “We are hurting enough as it is. But I would ask the person who took it, ‘Why didn’t you say something? Why didn’t you do something?’ If you see somebody being hurt, why don’t you do anything? That’s what really bothers me. Why wouldn’t you stop it?”
3. Gangs & Drugs Afflict the Area, Officials Say
The high school principal has been outspoken since McKay’s death about gang and drug problems in the area.
“Over the last 10 years, what I’ve noticed is that more and more of the gang influence is filtering on to the reserve from Winnipeg,” Guimond said to the Huffington Post, adding: “With gang activity comes drug trafficking and stuff like that, and that’s what’s killing our youth here.”
The community has about 3,000 people.
Sagkeeng Chief Derrick Henderson told CBC that McKay’s mother “is extremely disturbed by the existence of the video” and he too blamed substance abuse and economics for the death, in part.
“I’m not sure what the circumstances are of what happened, but I know a lot of it can be related to lots of factors like addictions. I know that’s an issue in my community,” he told CBC, adding, “…as a leader, it’s so hard to stomach, but we have to continue and move forward and try to make it a better place for our people.”
A friend of McKay’s told the Winnipeg Free Press, “She loved to be around her friends. She was an innocent girl… she was happy all the time. She was a beautiful young lady. She didn’t deserve this. It’s very tragic.”
4. The Sagkeeng Community Held a Vigil Around a Sacred Fire for McKay & Thousands Have Rallied in Her Memory
The First Nation community where McKay lived and died is mourning the young woman and held a series of vigils with a sacred fire, dancing, and singing in her memory. Thousands have turned out to mourn McKay and to urge community change, reports CBC.
“It’s very sad in there. You can feel the sadness, the pain, the hurt. But the leaders that are talking, they’re trying to give hope,” vigil attendee Rhonda Head told CTV News.
The chief of the Sagkeeng Nation joined calls for the video to be removed from Facebook. “The chief of Manitoba’s Sagkeeng First Nation wants the video of a vicious attack on a young woman — some say the same woman later found dead in the community — pulled off Facebook,” reports Red Power Media.
5. A Series of Disturbing Crimes Have Been Streamed on Facebook Live & Shown in Other Facebook Videos
Since Facebook launched the video streaming function on its platform, numerous crimes have been streamed via Facebook Live.
Most recently, Steve Stephens, a Cleveland, Ohio man, videotaped himself murdering an elderly man and then posted the video to Facebook.
In Chicago, the gang rape of a teenage girl was streamed on Facebook Live, and last summer, the police shooting death of a Minnesota man was too. In Thailand, a young child was murdered on Facebook Live.
In Florida, a teenager girl committed suicide on Facebook Live, continuing a disturbing pattern of people taking their own lives while streaming on Facebook. In the Florida case, the mother of the girl – who was in foster care – was accused of trolling her on Facebook as she hanged herself.
Watch the Serena McKay memorial video here: