NEW CASTLE, Del. (AP) — Two Delaware teens have been charged with assaulting a mentally disabled man after they complained to police about being harassed when a video of the attack was posted to social media, and police are seeking more suspects, authorities said Monday.
The teens' personal contact information was shared online with the video. The Newark teens, 13 and 14, were arrested Saturday after they and their parents went to police headquarters to complain about threatening phone calls, said New Castle County police officer Tracey Duffy.
The two boys were charged with offensive touching, assault of a vulnerable adult, and conspiracy. They were released on bonds of $2,500 after being arraigned. Their names were not released.
Investigators believe the 27-year-old victim was assaulted more than once. They are still trying to determine how many times and the number of people involved, but county police sergeant Jacob Andrews said Monday afternoon that investigators are looking at "definitely more arrests."
Meanwhile, the victim's godmother said he had to be assured that he wasn't to blame for what happened.
"He thought he was in trouble," Debra Hunter-Lee, 51, told The Associated Press on Monday. "I told him he wasn't in trouble, it wasn't his fault."
Investigators believe the first attack happened sometime in July, with the most recent a couple of weeks ago. Duffy said the victim, who lives in the same apartment complex as one of the suspects arrested Saturday, was treated for a non-life-threatening injury after one of the attacks, but she declined to provide details.
Hunter-Lee said when she asked the victim why he hadn't told anybody about the bullying, he replied, "I was embarrassed."
She then told him he was not in trouble.
"He jumped up and hugged me ... because he actually thought he had done something wrong."
Duffy said the two suspects were arrested after police investigating their complaints looked at the video, which shows the victim being body-slammed to the ground, stomped on and repeatedly punched in the head.
Duffy said she didn't know whether the suspects were cooperating with authorities.
Hunter-Lee said one of the teens is a known bully who has threatened other children and has been in trouble with the law before.
"He's known throughout the complex.... He only preys on the weak and the helpless," said Hunter-Lee. She said when she and the victim's mother went to talk to the suspect's mother, the woman became defensive.
Hunter-Lee said police interviewed the victim at a hospital over the weekend and came by the apartment complex Monday morning to check on him.
He is staying with a friend of the family for his own protection, she said.
"You have some kids around the complex who would embrace him, ... and then you have those kids who would take advantage of him," said Hunter-Lee
Sixteen-year-old Angeliz Marrero, of New Castle County, told WPVI-TV in Philadelphia that she reposted the video to her Instagram followers after she first spotted it.
"I was so mad, but at the same time, the first thing I thought was, 'I have to do something about this,'" Marrero said.
After she posted it, Marrero said her followers went from 2,000 to 20,000 in less than 24 hours.
Hunter-Lee said the victim suffers from Williams syndrome, a developmental disorder that is characterized, among other things, by intellectual disability or learning problems, outgoing personalities and distinctive facial features.
Hunter-Lee said her godson likes to listen to music, watch TV and walk around the neighborhood.
"He has an infectious smile," said Hunter-Lee, who said she and her friends are encouraging people to wear yellow T-shirts in a show of support because yellow is his favorite color.