CHICAGO — After seven teenagers were arrested Wednesday for a beating recorded on video that went viral online, Chicago's police chief called their actions part of a "national epidemic" of youth violence being posted on the Web. The teens were charged Wednesday in the beating and robbery of a 17-year-old Chicago high school student in an incident that stemmed from a previous altercation last October, police said.
One teen was charged as an adult and the rest — a 15-year-old girl, two 16-year-old boys and three 15-year-old boys — were cited in juvenile delinquency petitions. All were charged with one count each of robbery and aggravated battery, including the teen who recorded the video, said chief detective Tom Byrne.
Throughout the more than three-minute video, several attackers — many with sweat shirt hoods over their heads and some wearing masks — are seen repeatedly kicking, punching and yelling at the victim as he lay curled up on the snow-covered ground Sunday afternoon in an alley on the city's South Side. Police believe the girl lured the victim to the area.
The video went viral after it was posted on YouTube. Police said that helped to identify the alleged attackers.
Viewers who posted comments identified the alleged attackers by name, including 17-year-old Raymond Palomino, who appeared in bond court Wednesday. His bail was set at $100,000. Palomino's face is visible in the video.
Police said the attackers stole shoes, a wallet and $180 in cash from the victim, who was treated at a hospital for a laceration to his lip, bruises and abrasions.
The motive for the attack was an earlier fight between the victim and the same group of teens, said police Cmdr. Patricia Walsh. The assailants shouted racial slurs at the victim during the attack, but Walsh said the assault stemmed from "teenage bickering."
Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said the attention drawn to the YouTube posting was a "double-edged sword," helping to swiftly identify the suspects but also bringing in incorrect information from commentators that could have put other people in danger.
He said episodes of youth violence are appearing in videos online more frequently, calling it "a national epidemic."
"This is what kids do today, which is ridiculously stupid," McCarthy said.
The video-recorded attack on a teen in Chicago isn't the first to attract attention on the Web. In 2009, footage of the fatal beating of a 16-year-old honor student was circulated worldwide, providing an example of escalating violence that claimed the lives of more than 20 Chicago public school students in a six-month period.
In that video, captured by a cellphone camera, Derrion Albert is seen being punched, hit on the head with large boards and kicked in the head. The fight broke out after classes were dismissed at a high school on Chicago's South Side.
Four teens were sentenced to lengthy prison terms last year in that case, which sparked outrage around the country. A fifth suspect tried as a juvenile was ordered to remain imprisoned until he turns 21.
Albert's death prompted President Barack Obama to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder and Education Secretary Arne Duncan to the city to discuss ways to end the violence.
The most recent incident was different in that the attack was videotaped by someone apparently affiliated with the attackers. The Albert attack was recorded by a bystander.
In a restaurant close to the alley where Sunday's attack took place, Griselda Popoca said she and other residents found the attack appalling, particularly the video showing the teens reveling in their assault.
"I don't know if these kids were trying to show off. It's how it is nowadays. ... The things they are putting on these websites — they're just not thinking," said the 24-year-old nursing assistant.