DES MOINES, Iowa — Des Moines Police say two disturbing videos are causing problems on social media. They say the videos were recorded by two middle school girls as they beat one of their classmates during a sleepover.
Last week, the videos were posted to Facebook and shared more than 800 times — causing outrage among startled viewers. Some in the comments section called for police to step in, while others took matters into their own hands and posted addresses and photos of the alleged perpetrators’ homes.
But the videos were not new.
“In June we took a report from a family that their daughter had been at a sleepover and she had been assaulted by two other girls at that sleepover,” said Sgt. Paul Parizek of the Des Moines Police Department. “That case was investigated by our detectives at that time, the appropriate referrals were made to juvenile court for the young ladies that are responsible, and it’s been taken care of.”
This week, Des Moines Police have had to respond to the threats made against the girls and their parents.
“Now we have families that are having their addresses and photos of their homes posted on the internet,” head said. “We were over at a couple of houses last night where people were threatening to come over to their house and assault them and shoot them.”
Parizek said that while outrage at online videos can often be understandable, it’s often misplaced and reactionary.
“Take a moment to try and find some context,” he said. “Or look at this and make sure that you know exactly what’s going on before you start resharing it and just perpetuating these stories.”
As the victim in the videos appears to be Black, some commenters called the attacks “racially motivated.”
Parizek said the investigation revealed no such thing.
“Nothing indicates there was a racial motive to this,” Parizek said. “It was a fight between some girls that started with some name-calling, basically. “
Police say online videos captured and posted by children have provided them with a host of new problems to contend with. Parizek said the videos can be violent and can lead to more violence.
Victims and/or their parents should contact the police.
“If there’s an incident at the school, of course, the school’s going to be the first to find out, but we encourage victims to talk to us directly. Whatever that sequence is, talk to us directly.”