Three teen girls have been arrested in the "upsetting assault" of a young Chicago girl with special needs, which was captured in disturbing video that went viral on social media this week, police said.
Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said detectives from the Area Central Special Victims Unit arrested three girls - ages 13, 14 and 15 -Thursday in connection with the beating. The girls, some of whom were brought in by their parents, face aggravated battery and mob action charges, Guglielmi said.
Police said they are working to identify others seen in the footage and the person who filmed the attack. They added additional charges are also possible as the investigation remains ongoing.
The arrests and charges come just days after a 15-year-old girl became the victim of what police described as "some sick and disgusting crimes," some of which were captured on video and shared on social media.
"Our victim knew her attackers and the video gave me the sense that she felt she was among friends," Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson said during a news conference Thursday afternoon. "It broke my heart to see this group of people turn on her and escalate into what we saw, which was a physical assault."
The video that went viral on social media this week showed the young girl being beaten by a large group.
The video, which was shared on Twitter and seen more than 120,000 times in less than 24 hours, quickly sparked a criminal investigation by CPD, Chicago Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi tweeted Tuesday evening.
“This is beyond disturbing to watch and this young girl deserves far better,” Guglielmi wrote.
Guglielmi’s post cited a tweet from a user who wrote the video showed her friend with “a mental disability that has been progressing since the passing of her mother” being “jumped” by a group.
“I know this won’t blow up since I’m a small account but please share and rt! I want justice for my friend, she didn’t deserve any of this,” the tweet read.
A community activist said the 15-year-old knew her attackers and considered many of them "friends."
Community activist Stringer Harris, who has been working with the family in wake of the incident, said the girl's friends attacked her, allegedly because she did not want to participate in sexual acts and to keep her from reporting it to police.
"It's a shame, and she's upset," Harris said. "She's still trying to figure this out."
Police added the group was teaching the teen how to make gang signs before the attack, but authorities do not believe it was a gang initiation.
"There was some things going on that these young ladies wanted to her do that she… we’ll leave it at that for now," Johnson said Thursday.
Police confirmed the Special Victims Unit is investigating a possible sexual assault in connection with the case. They also said the Department of Children and Family Services has been contacted.
"The victim was interviewed and she did mention a couple of things aside from what was on the video," Chicago Police Officer Jose Jara said Wednesday, declining to comment further on what might have happened.
Police also declined to comment on the matter Thursday saying they were "not prepared to talk about that at this time."
The teen disappeared at some point and a missing person report was filed before the video was posted to social media. She was found by a "vigilant citizen" Tuesday and taken to Comer Children's Hospital, where she was listed in good condition.
"She was heartbroken about this situation," Harris said, adding that the girl suffered lacerations to her forehead.
Police said she was treated and released and an investigation remained ongoing.
"There simply cannot be room for this type of divisive and hateful behavior," Johnson said.