Atlanta police have arrested three people on child abuse charges after a video emerged last month appearing to show a young boy being hit and ridiculed by an adult who makes references to sexual orientation.
Jordan Jarrode Richards-Nwankwo, 18, Lorkeyla Jamia Spencer, 19, and Brittney Monique Mills, 35, are all charged with cruelty to children in connection with the video, which went viral after horrified viewers circulated the post showing the child being given an extreme haircut and then being repeatedly struck in the head. Richards-Nwankwo faces an additional count of battery.
They were taken into custody Friday. Investigators first learned about the video June 17, Atlanta police spokesman Sgt. John Chafee said.
“Investigators were made aware of a video posted on social media that depicted what appeared to be a young male being abused,” he said. “And it appeared that he was being abused because of his sexual orientation.”
The video shows the boy “with his hair shaved beyond the hairline,” according to a police report. The word “gay” was shaved into the side of his head, the report said.
“The child was being yelled at by a male that appeared to be an adult,” the report said. “The male was yelling at the child and hitting him in the head stating ‘you still doing gay (expletive). You think I cut this in your head for no reason?’ Then he slaps the child with an open hand on the side of his head while holding the top of the child’s head with his opposing hand.”
The following day, a second video of the same child was posted to social media, according to the police report.
“This second video was the child with a hat on his head stating that he was not abused,” the police report said. “In the background you can hear a male telling the child ‘(expletive) talk’ in a threatening manner, then the child continues to say he is not abused and that he was being punished.”
While The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is not publishing either video in order to guard the privacy of the victim, authorities described them as being hard to watch.
“When you see a young person being abused like this — just so unnecessary — it was difficult to watch,” Chafee said. “I think for a lot of the investigators it was the same way. It was an emotional case, and clearly it was for the members of the community as well.”
The video that showed the child being hit and punched was met with a massive push from the community, law enforcement and the Georgia Department of Human Services to find out from where it had originated.
Gaye Magazine, a digital media outlet that chiefly focuses on the LGBTQIA community, received “numerous direct messages” with information after it posted about the video, the police report said. Chafee said when police were notified of the social media post’s existence, they immediately began trying to determine where the video had been filmed and who was involved.
“We actually got a lot of feedback from members of the community who were able to help us identify the location and some of the people involved,” he said. “Investigators at that same time were doing that same work confirming the address and those involved.”
Investigators learned that the Division of Family and Children Services had opened a case file related to the incident after receiving “more than one complaint.” The child was placed in the care of DFCS on June 18, one day after the video emerged, police said. Police identified Richards-Nwankwo, Spencer and Mills as suspects soon after and secured warrants for their arrests.
“We are not going into too much detail exactly what those relationships are, because we are not releasing publicly the individual who was being abused. We are not putting their name out there right now,” Chafee said.
All three suspects were booked into the Fulton County Jail on Friday. Richards-Nwankwo was released Sunday on a $50,000 surety bond.