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Chicago police: Dozens watched girl's sexual assault on Facebook Live, but no one reported it

Chicago police are looking for suspects they say sexually assaulted a teenage girl and streamed it on Facebook Live. (Image source: WGN-TV)

Chicago police said Tuesday that about 40 people watched a live stream of the alleged sexual assault of a teenage girl — and no one reported it.

The apparent sexual assault of the 15-year-old Chicago girl was streamed on Facebook Live and approximately 40 people viewed it in real time, according to police.

The young girl was reported missing by her mother Sunday night after she didn't return home from the store, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The teenager had spent the night with a relative, attended church Sunday morning and headed to a nearby store after she was dropped off, the relative said. She wasn't spotted again until about 7:45 a.m. Tuesday, the Tribune reported.

WGN-TV reported that she was found on a porch crying.

"It hurts me to my core because I was one of the last people to see her," Reginald King, the girl's uncle, told the Tribune. "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.

Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi tweeted that police are "making good progress identifying persons of interest" in the case but "no formal suspects named yet."

The Facebook video has since been taken down, but not before screenshots of the video were shown to the girl's mother so she could identify her daughter. Other relatives, like King, have seen the video as well.

"It was very, very graphic. She’s pulled toward the bed," King said. "To have it put out there like that, publicly. It’s not right."

King told the Tribune that a teenager told him about the video. He credited the teenager for doing "one of the bravest things" as he said adults viewed the livestream and did not come forward.

"What's even more disturbing, more than the fact that they did this, there were so many people that saw this, and they didn't pick up the phone and dial 911," police Superintendent Eddie Johnson told WGN. "That's just not right and [we're] working on it and try to bring it to a successful resolution."

Johnson told WGN that he was shown images from the video by the girl's mother.

Guglielmi told the Tribune that 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 the police."

"[Johnson] 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," Guglielmi said.

Chicago Alderman Michael Scott Jr. said Tuesday that a suspect is in custody but did not identify who the suspect is. However, Guglielmi tweeted Tuesday evening that the assertion could not be confirmed.

Scott, who is the father of a 12-year-old-girl, decried the use of social media to "glorify" violence and "act out movie scenes."

"It is baffling to me," Scott told the Chicago Sun-Times. "Of course, I didn't grow up with social media. But it's becoming a place where young people act out movie scenes, if you will, people are getting shot and killed and beaten on Facebook Live."

"I really don't understand the fascination or the glorification of this violence. People want to get Facebook and Instagram famous, not knowing the consequences," he continued.

While Scott admitted that the city council cannot order a social media company, such as Facebook, to do something, he did point to a resolution in the council that calls for social media companies to crack down on its users who post violent images. That resolution is backed by every alderman, according to the Sun-Times.

This isn't the first time a violent act was livestreamed on Facebook in Chicago.

Four black suspects were charged with a hate crime after a Facebook Live video streamed multiple attackers beating, taunting and humiliating a white, mentally disabled man in January.

Following the attack, Facebook said people are not allowed "to celebrate or glorify crimes" on the site, according to the Tribune.

The Tribune reported:

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."

"Crimes like this are hideous and we do not allow that kind of content on Facebook," a Facebook spokesman told the Washington Post about the more recent incident. "We take our responsibility to keep people safe on Facebook very seriously and will remove videos that depict sexual assault and are shared to glorify violence."

King told the Tribune that he believes the attackers are a group of "thugs" who terrorize the neighborhood and that they attend the same school as the teenage girl. He said the video was streamed on a Facebook page belonging to a group known as the "beam team."

King said he also believes that adults aided the attackers.

"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 alleged.

"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?" he asked.

Once found, the girl was taken to a local hospital  and reunited with her family.

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