Three members of one Atlanta family have been arrested and charged with child abuse stemming from a viral Instagram Live video that showed a 12-year-old boy with the word ‘gay’ shaved into his hair being slapped and berated.
The incident took place on June 17, and the boy in the video, who is known only as Tyler, was removed from his family’s home the next day by the Georgia Division of Family and Children.
Following a month-long police investigation by the Atlanta Police Department’s Special Victims Unit, officials arrested on Friday Lorkeyla Spencer, 19; Brittney Mills, 35, and Jordan Richards-Nwankwo, on charges of first-degree cruelty to children.
A 12-year-old boy is seen being berated and abused by relatives in Atlanta in an Instagram Live video from June 17. Video shows the word ‘gay’ shaved into the victim’s head
Police in Atlanta on Friday arrested L to R) Lorkeyla Spencer, 19; Brittney Mills, 35, and Jordan Richards-Nwankwo, on charges of first-degree cruelty to children
Richards-Spencer also faces an additional count of battery involving family violence for allegedly striking the victim, as seen in the Instagram video. He was released on bond on Sunday.
Spencer and Mills remained jailed on $40,000 bond each as of Monday morning.
‘We’re very pleased with these arrests but we are pleased with feedback that we got from members of the community assisting in this and how quickly they were able to jump on it,’ said Sgt. John Chafee, with the Atlanta Police Department.
The incident began unfolding on June 17, when a video was uploaded to Instagram Live, showing Tyler, seen in a red T-shirt with a partially shaved head, being verbally and physically abused by members of his family, allegedly including his mother and siblings.
In the video, the man believed to be the child’s older brother berates him for saying ‘gay s***’ and slaps him on the head. He also grabs him by the neck and pushes him
‘You think I cut this in your head for no reason?’ the male suspect, believed to be Tyler’s older brother, can be heard asking the boy, referring to the word ‘gay’ shaved into the left side of the child’s head. Tyler seems frightened in the video, with his eyes cast down and his arms crossed on his chest for protection.
The man, identified by the police as Richards-Nwankwo, then appears to slap Tyler on the head and berates him for saying ‘gay a** s***’ while the family are standing on a porch.
The 18-year-old slaps the boy a second time, grabs him by the neck and forcefully pushes him, sending the victim flying against a railing, then slaps him again while threatening to beat him up.
While police have not disclosed how the victim was related to the suspects, in a follow-up video defending his family, Tyler identified two of them as his brother and sister.
He assured Instagram Live viewers that he was ‘good’ and insisted that his siblings were not abusing him, but rather showing him the ‘right thing to do.’
Some commenters expressed concern that the boy was speaking under duress after hearing a woman’s voice in the background telling him, ‘Say it, n*****.’
Atlanta police launched an investigation after learning of the video showing the boy’s abuse, which has gone viral and sparked a backlash from the local LGBTQ+ community.
After the video went viral and came to the attention of the police, the boy was removed from his home by child protective services
In a follow-up video, the boy, known as Tyler, defends his family, saying his brother and sister were not abusing him
‘The behavior in this social media post was difficult to watch and is absolutely unacceptable,’ police stated. ‘We are appreciative of the number of people who flagged this case with us and for those who provided information on the location where it took place.
‘Our investigators worked hard to identify those involved and to gather the evidence needed to place each behind bars and we are thankful for their work.’
Activist and city council candidate Devin Barrington-Ward told 11Alive he reached out to Tyler and his family because what he saw in the video broke his heart.
‘As a Black queer man, I have experienced some of the same homophobia and some of the same abuse by the hands of people that I love as a child,’ he said. ‘If you saw that and you didn’t see anything wrong with that, you’re part of the problem.’
Barrington-Ward revealed that he told the young boy that he was loved. He also spoke to Tyler’s mother, who reportedly told him about the challenges of being a single mother of eight raising ‘a young black queer child in poverty,’