The videotaped beating death of an honors student in Chicago, Illinois, is “chilling” and one of the most shocking things “you can ever see,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Wednesday.
At his daily news briefing in Washington, Gibbs said President Obama was concerned about the killing and the issue of violence in his former hometown. He said Obama discussed the matter earlier Wednesday in the Oval Office. “This is not just a Chicago-specific problem,” Gibbs said. “Obviously, youth crime and gang violence are something that this administration takes seriously and we’ll have more on that soon.” Four suspects have been charged with first-degree murder in the September 24 killing of 16-year-old Derrion Albert, and police say they are looking for three more people in connection with the beating captured on videotape. Prosecutors said that Albert was an innocent bystander who ended up in the middle of a street fight between two factions of students from Fenger High School. Asked about the killing as Obama prepares to travel to Copenhagen, Denmark, to lobby the International Olympic Committee to award Chicago the 2016 Games, Gibbs described the videotape of the attack as “among the most shocking that you can ever see.” “The killing of an honor student … who’s beaten to death, is chilling, chilling video,” Gibbs said.
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Obama has emphasized parental responsibility in addressing chronic problems in low-income urban communities including school dropouts, drug use, gang activity and violence. Gibbs offered no explanation for the Chicago killing, saying, “in many ways a lot of these crimes are amazingly hard to explain.” Whatever led to this specific attack, “you can’t regulate the hard issue,” Gibbs said. “This is not a problem that government alone, as the president often says, at any level is going to be able to solve,” Gibbs said. “This is going to take community involvement, it’s going to take parental involvement, it’s going to take the involvement of everyone to address what is obviously a sad and shocking problem.” Chicago Police Superintendent Jody Weis said he asked the U.S. Secret Service to try to enhance the video so that others involved in the fight can be identified. Weis pleaded with anyone who may have information not to withhold it. “The culture of ‘no-snitch’ is unacceptable,” he said. “On Thursday, a young man with a promising future lost his life to senseless violence, yet few have come forward.” Authorities are also considering charging people who participated in the fight but did not come into contact with Albert, he said. An amateur videotape shot by a witness, which has been broadcast widely, showed the attack unfolding. A local TV station that received the tape turned it over to police. When school let out at 2:50 p.m. on Thursday, Albert was nearly six blocks away — on his way to a bus stop — when two groups of students converged on the street, said Tandra Simonton, spokeswoman for the Cook County State’s Attorney. The factions — one that lived near the Altgeld Gardens housing development and one in an area known as “The Ville” — began fighting after an earlier shooting that police called gang-related. According to Simonton, Albert was approached by two members of “The Ville” faction and struck in the head with a long wooden railroad tie, then punched in the face. After being briefly knocked unconscious, Albert regained consciousness and tried to move from the fight, but was attacked by a second group of five members from the opposing faction, Simonton said. Albert was taken to Roseland Community Hospital and then to Advocate Christ Hospital and Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.