Facebook a common thread in some of 2017’s most grisly crimes

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Police Supt. Eddie Johnson called on Facebook to step up its efforts to help law enforcement. Members of CPD and Facebook are set to meet next month. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

After Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson lambasted Facebook for what he said were lackadaisical efforts to help law enforcement Thursday, representatives from the social networking company reached out to the CPD to organize a sit-down meeting next month to discuss future strategies.

Johnson’s statements were made after announcing that police had arrested dozens of people after officers infiltrated a secret Facebook group that served as a marketplace for illegal drugs and guns.

Friday, CPD spokesman Anthony Guglielmi tweeted: “Facebook & CPD will be meeting in January to build on our successful raids this week and better collaborate to stop illegal activity online before it leads to violence on our streets.”

It was hardly the first time Facebook has been at the center of a major police investigation in 2017, though. Several Chicagoans using the site have broadcast several of the city’s mostly grisly crimes throughout the year.

“Facebook has a responsibility to the people that they serve to ensure that these types of things don’t go on, and quite frankly, they haven’t been very friendly to law enforcement to prevent these things, so maybe with you all’s help, they will become that,” Johnson said Thursday.

In early January, a mentally disabled man was kidnapped and tortured by four people on the West Side, with video of the attack broadcast on Facebook Live.

The victim, a Crystal Lake man who had been classmates with one of his alleged attackers at a west suburban alternative high school, appeared terror-stricken as he was taunted with racially-tinged insults —including calling him a supporter of then-President-elect Donald Trump.

Two of his alleged assailants cut his clothing with a knife, punched and kicked him. In one video, the man was forced to drink water from a toilet bowl.

Brittany Covington, her sister Tanishia Covington, Tesfaye Cooper and Jordan Hill were arrested on kidnapping and hate-crime charges. Earlier this month, Brittany Covington reached a plea deal with prosecutors and was sentenced to four years of probation. Plea negotiations for the other three are ongoing.

The next month, 2-year-old Lavontay White and Lazarec Collins, his uncle, were killed and another woman was wounded in a West Side shooting. The woman, who was pregnant at the time, was on Facebook Live as shots rang out and the attack was broadcast on the platform. Lavontay and Collins were shot in the head while the woman, Lavontay’s aunt, was shot in the abdomen.

Three men were charged in the shooting.

In March, a 15-year-old girl was gang raped, with her attack also streamed to Facebook Live.

As many as 40 people watched online as the girl was assaulted, but none reported it to police, Johnson said at the time.

“It just disgusts me that people can look at those videos and not pick up the phone and not dial 911,” Johnson said, calling the case“absolutely horrific.”

Two teen boys were charged in that attack.

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