GULFPORT - The Facebook Live broadcast of an apparent sexual assault and then beating has resulted in three arrests and caused the Gulfport Police Chief to decry the “dark side of social media.”
The incident occurred Tuesday night in Gulfport at a residence on 7th Avenue shortly before midnight.
Two of the suspects turned themselves in and a third was arrested by Gulfport Police.
Ezzie Johnson, 17, is being held on a $200,000 bond on a charge of kidnapping. Haleigh Alexis Hudson, 19, who is also wanted on a charge of sexual battery, is being held on a $400,000 bond. Johnson will be charged as an adult.
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Kadari Fabien Booker is charged with felony kidnapping and sexual assault. Booker's bond was set at $500,000, according to the Sun Herald.
Tuesday around 11:46 p.m., patrol officers responded to an address in the 3100 block of 7th Avenue, later believed to be Hudson's residence, in reference to a reported assault. Upon arrival, officers learned of a Facebook Live video that depicted a sexual and physical assault of a 23-year-old woman.
The video was subsequently deleted, but Facebook user Tiffany Hailey recorded the video and reposted it to her page.
Hailey said she saw the live video and realized she was witnessing an assault happening in real time.
"I’m looking at the time date and stamp on it and this is happening right now," Hailey said. "You see it escalating."
Hailey, who said she did not know anyone in the video, did not call police but instead reached out to the victim directly through Facebook.
She said she shared it to her page, asking her followers "if you know this girl, please do help her. This is serious."
"This is gut-wrenchingly horrific," Hailey said. "It's really, really, bad."
During the investigation, Johnson and Hudson were identified as two of the suspects and warrants were issued for their arrest. Police believe they knew the victim prior to the alleged assault.
"Johnson is actually the one who memorialized these criminal acts by videotaping and distributing on Facebook Live," said Chief Leonard Papania. "We are also evaluating the actions of other people present in order to determine if other charges will be forthcoming, and I can tell you with certainty there will be."
At a news conference Wednesday afternoon, Papania was asked about the Facebook reports that the victim has special needs.
“There's so much junk out there right now, it makes this job incredibly hard," he said. "The charges right now are sexual battery and kidnapping. If there was a question as to mental state and the impact as a criminal element that would show in the charges.”
Appearing frustrated at times, Papania expressed outrage over the shares and views of the video.
"Once again we are witnessing the dark side of social media," he said. "These warrants demonstrate our belief about these three individuals and their criminal acts, however, I can’t help but be disturbed by the incredible number of shares and views of this crude and despicable event. Not too long ago, we were up to 1,100 shares of that video and I think we’re around 48,000 views. It speaks loudly about our culture.”
This investigation is ongoing.
Anyone with information regarding this crime is urged to contact the Gulfport Police Department at (228) 868-5959. You can also contact Crime Stoppers at www.mscoastcrimestoppers.com or by telephone at (877) 787-5898.