Seventeen-year-old Ezzie Johnson stared at the screen on his telephone, counting the views on a Live Facebook video that shows a young woman being sexually assaulted in the bathroom of a Gulfport residence.
Johnson appears to emerge, shirtless, from the bathroom into the den, where at least three other young women and two young men are gathered. The victim walks out zipping her jeans, having been on her knees with her back to the camera while in the bathroom.
“We live, baby,” Johnson says, apparently watching the Facebook feed on his phone. “We live.”
Then he asks how much the victim will charge to perform oral sex, but he puts it more crudely in the video. “ . . . $20? $10? $15?”
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Johnson was live all right. A frustrated and obviously angry Gulfport police chief, Leonard Papania, later lamented the views the video drew.
His investigators worked on the case from Tuesday night until late Wednesday afternoon, when they announced the arrest of three people on kidnapping and sexual battery charges: Gulfport residents Johnson and Haleigh Alexis Hudson, 19, and Kadari Fabien Booker, 17, of Biloxi.
“Once again, we are witnessing the dark side of social media,” Papania told gathered media. “These warrants demonstrate our belief about these individuals and their criminal acts.
“However, I can't help but be disturbed by the incredible numbers of shares and views of this crude and despicable event . . . It speaks loudly about our culture.”
Hudson was charged with sexual battery because she allegedly held the victim during the assault, police said. Hudson also started hitting the victim, who sat meekly on a couch and said little.
The video shows Hudson started hitting the victim after prompting from Johnson. “What y’all going to do?” he said. “My viewers, they want to see some action, my n - - - - h.”
At a couple of points in the video, Hudson appears to be making out with one of the young men in the room.
Much has been made of the fact in Facebook comments that Hudson worked at the South Mississippi Regional Center in Long Beach, which serves the developmentally disabled.
The assistant director, David Shumate, said she did recently work at the center, but only for a brief period. He was unable to comment on why she is no longer employed there. Shumate said he is unaware of any connection the victim has to the center and that she has not received services there.
Near the end of the video, the victim stands. She is wearing a backpack and headed for the door.
“Leave me alone,” she says. “Stop.”
Hudson stands in front of the door. The victim retreats to the couch.
The original video was removed from Facebook. Another viewer posted the video from a copy on her phone, saying she was trying to help the victim verify the alleged assault.
Johnson is watching his Facebook feed during a good portion of the 10-minute, 25-second video the viewer posted from her phone. He reads comments encouraging the assault or imploring him to release the victim.
One viewer was bothered that the victim, who is black, failed to fight back when hit by Hudson, who is white.
“That black girl wasn’t even fighting back,” Johnson read from the comments. “She gets no ‘cool points.’ ”