September 30th, 2009
03:15 PM ET
13 years ago

Obama spokesman: Video of beating death 'chilling'

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Derrion Albert, 16, was beaten to death last week. His death was captured on video."]
WASHINGTON (CNN) - 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, Gibbs said President Barack 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.

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," the spokesman added. "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 States 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 knocked unconscious for a brief period, Albert regained consciousness and tried to move from the fight, but was then 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.

Filed under: Robert Gibbs
soundoff (19 Responses)
  1. GuyInVA

    I'm a conservative guy, and no fan of most of the president's policies. However, those of you using this video as a way to tarnish the president need to grow up. This happens everywhere. Gang violence is more prevalent in larger cities, but it is not exclusive to larger cities. This has nothing to do with the president.

    September 30, 2009 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  2. Steph

    My prayers continue to go out to the beautiful child's family! We all need to take responsibility to stop this violence. Parents need to teach their children right and wrong and show them love. Other adults need to teach, coach and mentor young children. Nonprofit and faith organizations need to provide positive afterschool activities. We need to promote economic development so these teenagers have jobs to go to. AND, as President Obama has suggested, we need to lengthen the school day. These kids shouldn't get out of school at 2:50.

    September 30, 2009 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  3. Marc in Virginia

    Yes it is, Mr. Gibbs. Which is why your boss' ghetto adopted hometown should not be getting the Olympics although I'm sure he will pad someone's pockets to make sure this happens.

    September 30, 2009 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  4. Mike in NYC

    What does his status as an "honors student" - a meaningless designation considering today's scholastic standards - have to do with anything?

    It was just another day in Chi-town.

    September 30, 2009 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  5. rr

    how much you want to bet all of these accused were born to out of wedlock teen mothers?

    Want to solve 90% of the problems with the poor and the inner city? Develop a vaccine that prevents people from conceiving or fathering children until they are 21 years old. Do that, and within 2 generations, you'll see a huge drop in drop outs, crime, poverty, and other problems in the inner city that come from the cycle of children having children.

    September 30, 2009 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  6. Steve (the real one)

    Truly sad and disgraceful!

    September 30, 2009 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  7. Leftie

    "This is not just a Chicago-specific problem,"

    How true. So for all the neo-cons trying to turn this horrible story into yet another way to bash the President, please stop. There is violence everywhere in this country . . . . and it's not just confined to big cities either. Po-dunk, Mississippi has it's share of violence as well and pointing fingers is NOT the way to stop it.

    September 30, 2009 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  8. WI Vet

    This is a problem not to be blamed on one but blamed on the many. It is an issue that affect all of us deom S.F. to D.C. We as Americans ca not lose a generation to stupidity & violence. This child could have been the one to cue cancer, save your cousin life when passing an accident, gave the blood to help you neighbors child or any number of thing that would have helped the masses or just one person. But we will never know.........remember this child please.

    September 30, 2009 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  9. 2010 can't get here fast enough

    Let's have an olympics there though right Barry, how many students have been SHOT in the last 3 years, 400 PLUS.

    Let's reward them with an olympics that will pay back all his crony friends that preach to care about the youngsters in the 'hood, but strangely they get RICH while the 'hood get's no better.

    THIS WAS A GOOD KID and Obama can't say anything to the public?

    Barry, stop talking to Oprah and instead maybe YOU make a public statement on this and send out a MESSAGE to the youth that look up to you, my bad, your too busy talking to Oprah and jetting off to Denmark to even call your Afghan General, why would you "opine" on this?

    What a fraud.

    September 30, 2009 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  10. Fed Up

    This is horrible. Where are the thugs parents? Do they even know who their father is? Time for parents to start parenting and take responsibility for your kids actions. If you aren't going to parent your kids..........don't have them.

    September 30, 2009 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  11. Angi's mom

    Very, very sad. We don't need to fight terrorism in other countries when it's in our own back yard.

    September 30, 2009 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  12. S Callahan

    Derrion sits under the tabel of the Lord, calling out it time now....
    One will be time for justice to be metted out to those who have chosen a path that does not show respect for life. God be with Derrion's family until that day.

    This is not singular to's worldy....but we were warned what happens when we give up on becoming all God intends for us to be...
    and grubbled that he does not exist.....God doesn't need to prove his hand....instead He has left us to our own hearts desires..until we decide to put Him back into the world.

    September 30, 2009 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  13. No home training

    I think the parents of the attackers should be held FULLY responsible for this; as well as locking up these young animals. I think that if we start threatening jail time to parents as well they will start making an effort to raise their children with moral standards.

    My heart and prayers go out to the family and friends of Derrion Albert.

    September 30, 2009 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  14. Martin Sonopel

    WRONG, Gibbs! Chicago is renowned for its criminality from top to bottom. Senseless killing happens there everyday, the worst place in the US.

    September 30, 2009 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  15. fellow from chicago

    Bring on the Olympics. Us Chicagoians know what neighborhoods to stay out of, but tourist beware! You may become an unattended victim of some gangs skeet venue. Pull!

    September 30, 2009 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  16. Travis from Chicago

    The republicans need to take a trip to Chicago. They may not make it out. Is that a bad thing? Maybe not!

    September 30, 2009 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  17. Wake Up

    Where was in he when he lived here in Chicago? This is 30+ deaths of innocent black kids! These kids need vouchers to get out of these areas, but the Dems and unions won't let these kids have a chance!!
    Police, and the Mayor should be on the streets making sure kids get home safely. Obama is an empty promise.

    September 30, 2009 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  18. Farrell in Houston

    We need boots on the streets instead of our law enforcement riding around in cars. When policemen walked the beat, we didn't have these kind of crimes committed by children because they were visible and they stopped and talked to our youths.

    September 30, 2009 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  19. Doug, New Jersey

    Chilling, as in this is what I dreamt of when I started my community organizing in this city. Thanks to Obama and his cronies for helping to make Chicago the #1 crime and murder city in America.

    September 30, 2009 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |