Johnson calls livestreamed sex assault ‘absolutely horrific’

SHARE Johnson calls livestreamed sex assault ‘absolutely horrific’
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Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson is scheduled to announce a new use-of-force policy on Wednesday. | Santiago Covarrubias/For the Sun-Times

Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson on Sunday announced the first of several expected arrests in a sexual assault of a 15-year-old girl that was broadcast on Facebook Live.

At a news conference, Johnson called the case “absolutely horrific.”

“The young men responsible should be ashamed of themselves. They’ve humiliated themselves, humiliated their families, and now they’re going to be held accountable for what they did,” Johnson said.

A 14-year-old boy arrested Saturday faces felony counts of aggravated criminal sexual assault, manufacturing of child pornography and dissemination of child pornography.

An arrest warrant also was issued for a 15-year-old boy, police said on Sunday.

At least five or six attackers participated in the sexual assault on the girl, who remains traumatized, police said.

“She’s had a very, very difficult time even talking about it,” Chicago Police Cmdr. Brendan Deenihan said.

“We have a very good idea of who these individuals are, but like I said, working with this victim at this time is very, very slow, and she doesn’t want to talk about what occurred for obvious reasons. It’s very difficult, and she’s traumatized. She’s going to need help for a long time after this,” Deenihan said.

One of the people police are investigating in connection with the assault is an adult, though Deenihan would not provide additional details.

Detectives, working with Facebook, executed several social media search warrants during the investigation.

The assault took place on March 19, the same day the girl went missing in the Lawndale neighborhood, not far from her home, police said.

Chicago Police Cmdr. Brendan Deenihan speaks at a press conference on Sunday, April 2, 2017, at the Public Safety Headquarters. | Santiago Covarrubias/For the Sun-Times

Chicago Police Cmdr. Brendan Deenihan speaks at a press conference on Sunday, April 2, 2017, at the Public Safety Headquarters. | Santiago Covarrubias/For the Sun-Times

“The victim knew one of the offenders,” Deenihan said. “I don’t want to go too much into detail, but I’m going to say she was lured into the residence, and then from there she was not allowed to leave and she didn’t consent to what occurred.”

Deenihan said that online bullying aimed at the victim and her family after the assault compounded the girl’s suffering.

Reacting to the online abuse, officials from the police department and Cook County state’s attorney’s office relocated the girl and her family “to a safe place,” police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said.

“The victim as of this moment is going through counseling and therapy,” Andrew Holmes, a community activist who is serving as a family spokesman, said Sunday. “This was a torture, not just a sexual assault. This was a torture.”

Holmes said the girl, a student of Lane Tech College Prep, may end up transferring to another school.

“That whole family is totally shaken, but it’s a close-knit family and they’re pulling it back together day by day,” Holmes said.

The case was fast-tracked because of a chance encounter the victim’s mother had with Johnson.

Johnson was leaving a West Side police station on March 20 when the girl’s mother stopped him and showed him images of her daughter being attacked.

Johnson walked with the woman into the 10th District police station in the Lawndale neighborhood and called his chief of detectives to gather a team of investigators to respond immediately, Guglielmi said. The department contacted Facebook to take down the video, which it did.

The girl was found about 7:45 a.m. March 21 at the intersection of 16th and Independence by 10th District officers, police said. She was taken to Comer Children’s Hospital and subsequently was reunited with her family.

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

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

Guglielmi said prosecuting the people who watched the video would be difficult because detectives would need to prove the watcher knew the girl was a minor.

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