Thousands of donors from across the country have raised more than $150,000 for a Crystal Lake man who was held captive and beaten by four people in a West Side apartment.
A GoFundMe campaign titled “Let’s show the Chicago Victim love” had raised $153,840 as of Tuesday afternoon, just five days after the page was started by a good Samaritan with no connection to the family. The money is sorely needed as the man, an 18-year-old who suffers from schizophrenia, will need to recover from a days-long ordeal that began when an acquaintance kidnapped him on New Year’s Eve, said Neal Strom, an attorney who is helping the man’s family deal with press inquiries.
“My clients are overwhelmed with the warm, kind generosity of perfect strangers,” Strom said Tuesday. “It just came out of the clear blue sky . . . it shows that there are good people out there after all [the victim] has been through.”
Prosecutors have charged four people with hate crimes and other counts, alleging that a former alternative school classmate of the victim took him to an apartment in the 3300 block of West Lexington Avenue, bound and gagged the man, and spent days tormenting him— abuse that one of the defendants broadcast on Facebook that has since become a viral news sensation.
In video streamed live on Facebook, the four berated and beat the man, slashing off his hair and clothing with a knife. The victim’s head was forced into a toilet, and the man made to drink water from the bowl. In the background voices can be heard shouting at the victim, who is white, “F– white people” and “f— Donald Trump.” At one point, one of the assailants can be heard off-camera saying “I don’t give a f— if [the victim] is schizophrenic.”
Jordan Hill, an 18-year-old from Carpentersville, who authorities say had attended alternative school with the victim, was charged along with co-defendants Tesfaye Cooper Jr., Tunisia Covington and Brittany Covington, with two hate crime counts, as well as aggravated battery and aggravated kidnapping. The four defendants all are African-American, and each of them face two counts of hate crime for allegedly targeting the victim, who is white, because of his race and mental disability. A Cook County judge last week ordered them held without bail.
Prosecutors said the victim’s mother dropped him off at a Streamwood McDonald’s on Dec. 31, where he was picked up by Hill in a stolen van. Hill left the victim in the back of the van for hours, then returned, apparently enraged by the victim’s mother’s repeated attempts to contact Hill. Hill beat the victim in the van, then drove to the Homan Square apartment where he met up with Cooper and the Covingtons. The victim escaped on Jan. 3, after the four left him in the apartment while they stormed into an apartment belonging to their downstairs neighbor, who had complained about noise.
Strom said the abuse was traumatic and terrifying for the victim, whom he described as “shy and introverted.” The six-figure pot of donations will be used to get treatment for him, not just for the stress of the incident but mental health care his working-class family has struggled to provide throughout his life, said Strom, who said he is not charging the family for his help.
“It will be 100 percent devoted to providing for him, with things he’s never really had, enough resources to counsel and properly diagnose and treat his mental state,” Strom said, adding the money likely will be placed in a court-monitored trust. “The family is not well-off at all. They have very, very modest means. Anything in this account will be judiciously used to get this young man the help that he needs.”
Strom said he has fielded calls and offers from organizations and individuals across the U.S., but has spoken only to family members, and he isn’t sure how aware the victim is of the many people expressing sympathy. Cards and letters have also flooded a P.O. Box in Cary, Illinois, set up by a relative.
“It’s been overwhelming,” Strom said. “I hope that this will connect [the family] with organizations and opportunities that would never have been available to them, had it not been for this horrible, disgusting, beyond-belief thing that happened.”