Even though she’s a high school freshman, the 15-year-old wanted to watch some junior high basketball games with her uncle on Saturday. Afterward, they had pizza and she stayed over. They went to church Sunday morning.
The girl disappeared shortly after he dropped her back home later Sunday. The next time Reginald King said he saw his niece, it was on a Facebook Live recording -- and she was being sexually assaulted by as many as six attackers.
“It was very, very graphic. She’s pulled toward the bed," King said of the recording, which at one point was drawing about 40 viewers. "To have it put out there like that, publicly. It’s not right."
It wasn't until Tuesday morning that the girl was reunited with her mother and taken to a hospital, where she was examined for injuries, her uncle said. She appeared to have a busted lip and puffy cheeks, suggesting she’d been hit in the face, King said.
No charges had been announced Tuesday afternoon, but police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi tweeted that investigators were "making good progress identifying persons of interest in 10th Dist assault. Interviews ongoing but no formal suspects named yet.”
Ald. Mike Scott (24th), who said he gets routine updates from police, said he was told about late Tuesday morning that one juvenile had been arrested.
Scott said he couldn't comment further about the case but added, "What I would say is there were more individuals in the video, so I’m sure they’re looking for other folks."
King said his niece started walking through her neighborhood after he dropped her off, heading to a nearby store for a snack. Her mother filed a police report when her daughter didn't come home Sunday. She was finally spotted about 7:45 a.m. Tuesday.
After spending hours canvassing the neighborhood where his niece went missing, King said it’s clear to him her tormentors are a part of a group of "thugs" who have terrorized that part of Lawndale.
"It hurts me to my core because I was one of the last people to see her," King said. "I want to make sure this never happens to anybody else's kids, and if that starts with taking down this one group, I’ll make that my life’s mission.
“If we don’t stand up and do anything about it now, who knows if the next kid this happens to, maybe they don’t get to come home. Maybe this doesn’t get to have a happy ending."
King said a teenager alerted him to the assault on Facebook Live. “This is one of the bravest things I’ve ever seen a kid do. There were adults who saw this. None of them had the wherewithal to say, ‘Hey, I gotta call someone.’ ”
Chicago activist Andrew Holmes got the video to police, and the girl's mother was shown screen shots and was able to identify her daughter.
The girl's mother ran into Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson at the 10th District station, and Johnson took an immediate interest in the case, said Guglielmi, the police spokesman.
Johnson "was visibly upset when he saw the pictures of the girl and was dismayed when he learned that people were watching the incident live and no one called police," Guglielmi wrote in an email to the Tribune.
"The superintendent immediately escorted the mother into the district and called the chief of detectives to order a team of investigators to respond to the district immediately."
Police also contacted Facebook and the video was taken down.
The attack was at least the fourth Chicago crime caught on Facebook Live since the end of last October.
After one of the previous attacks -- when a special needs man was tormented and tortured by a group of people -- the company said it does not allow people "to celebrate or glorify crimes" on its network.
Facebook has a team on call 24 hours a day to respond to reports of inappropriate live videos as they're happening, the company said. A viewer can interrupt a live stream if a violation of Facebook's community standards occurs, and it takes only one report for something to be reviewed.
That means if just one of the 40 or so people who watched the video of the girl being attacked, the video might have come down sooner.
"Live video on Facebook is a new and growing format," the company said in a statement about the technology and its community standards. "We've learned a lot over the past few months, and will continue to make improvements to this experience wherever we can."
But the company also pointed out the benefits of sharing live video of graphic content. "In many instances ... when people share this type of content, they are doing so to condemn violence or raise awareness about it. In that case, the video would be allowed."
The girl’s uncle said he believes the group who attacked his niece went to school on Monday, and he thinks one or more adults aided in her captivity.
“Obviously there are adults aiding and abetting them because they kids – they can’t drive, they don’t have a house. There are adults perpetuating this, enabling this criminal activity,” King said.
He said one of the other painful issues for the family has been the fact that the girl was reported missing in November, which painted her to some as a chronic runaway. That couldn’t be further from the truth, he said.
Because she is a good student and a responsible daughter, her mother became worked when she was an hour late getting home last fall, King said. A community alert went out but the girl returned home a short time later.
“That’s not her, not even close," King said, saying his niece excelled in grade school and was accepted in one of the better high schools in Chicago. "But tell you what, even if she was, no one human deserves what happened to her. No matter what."
Police described the girl as in “good condition,” but King said the attack would be tough for even the strongest of people to handle.
“She has a great family, a wonderful mom, her cousins, her sisters, basketball team sisters. We gonna do our best to make sure she comes out on the other side well and whole,” King said. “That she can find enough peace to persevere.”
King said he has learned that a group of 35 to 50 teenage boys called the "beam team" have been terrorizing a few blocks of the neighborhood.
"They are basically holding an entire community hostage. I literally saw adults, 60 years old, my elders, my parents' age, cringing in fear," King said. "We were like, 'They're kids,' and they were like, 'No, they shooting people, they killing people, they robbing people.' Over an extended period of time, they making it where kids can't go to the store and get a snack and old people can't come out and sit on the porch and little kids can't play outside.
“As a society we have to ask ourselves, how did it get to the point where young men feel like it’s a badge of honor to sexually assault a girl ... to not only do this to a girl, but broadcast it for the world?” King said.
Scott, the alderman, said he’s heard of the “beam team” too.
“I have a young daughter who is 12, who will soon be going to high school and it just made me give pause to the people she associates with because obviously this was someone this young lady knew or felt comfortable with," Scott said. "It makes you want to assess who they’re spending time with but at the end of the day, you can’t protect them from everything. We pray for the young lady that’s involved.”
The Chicago Tribune’s Ted Gregory and Jeremy Gorner contributed.
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