CHILLICOTHE, Ill. (WMBD) — Chillicothe community members are saying enough is enough.
A 17-year-old girl with autism, Makenna Batson, was attacked Monday. It was all caught on video. The graphic video shows multiple teenagers hitting Makenna, cornering her, and saying extremely hurtful things.
Chillicothe Police Chief Scott Mettille says his department was sent the video numerous times and took action.
“Immediately, that video surfaced, and dispatch phones starting blowing up. Letting us know the video was out there. We had numerous people walking into our lobby to want to make us aware and show us the video,” Chief Mettille said. “One of my sergeants put out on our Facebook page just letting the community know we are aware of it, we are investigating it, and we truly appreciate all the feedback and people caring to give us that information.”
Tuesday evening, Mettille confirmed seven people, including six juveniles and one adult, have been arrested for bullying a teen with autism. Four females and three males are all being charged for aggravated battery and mob action.
Makenna’s father says his family has received an enormous amount of support from people around the country.
“I’ve been contacted by a national biker organization that is against abuse and these types of situations,” said Terry Batson, Makenna’s father. “They want shirts, colors, everything like that. They’re gonna start printing shirts. It has been incredible.”
But Terry says they want the message to be clear, bullying is not acceptable.
“She was walking with a bag of M&Ms to give back to a friend and she ran into that group,” Terry said. “They just all of a sudden starting picking on her, Makenna wasn’t doing anything.”
In the video, the teens tried to get Makenna to fight them.
“Just seeing the video, every time I look at it, I get very angry,” Terry said.
Terry says this isn’t the first time his daughter has been bullied. He’s ready to put a stop to it.
“I’m not going to let somebody just let it go, cause I’m not going to. Because this is enough. I’m worried about her,” Batson said. “Last summer, we had another video. I couldn’t get it because they deleted it before I could get it. There was another girl that slapped her and did the same thing in front of a group. It was reported, but we had nobody to back us up.”
This time, the video was saved and posted to Facebook. It received more than 224,000 views in under 24 hours.
Mettille says he spoke with Makenna and her parents Monday night, and at first, Makenna blamed herself for the situation.
“It was really important to make her understand that this was not her fault. This is something that mean people do,” Mettille said.
In less than 24 hours, a Facebook group, ‘Kindness for Makenna,’ has been created. More than 1,600 people have joined the group so far. People have been posting kind, heartfelt messages for Makenna, letting her know that she is not alone and that she is loved.
Makenna’s father hopes this incident wakes people up, showing them that your actions and words do have weight.
“The kids think this is just for fun and they’re just videotaping it, and they’re just picking on somebody. I want them to be educated to know, you’re not just picking on somebody, you’re destroying somebody. You’re destroying every ounce of their soul. You may think it’s funny, but what if somebody did that to you?” Terry said.
Terry says teaching kids respect and responsibility is important and needs to be taught more.
Chief Mettille says more assets are expected to be made by the end of Tuesday.
Terry says Makenna is doing better and he’s extremely grateful for the outpouring of support his family has received. He says Makenna is very talented in art, fashion, and design.
“Her favorite color is purple, she loves owls, she loves to just be outside,” Terry smiled. “She’s into fashion. She can draw dresses, she’s learning how to sew, she’s made our masks. She’s incredibly talented when it comes to colors and everything like that.”
Terry says Makenna is also extremely generous.
“She’s a really kind-hearted girl that gives. She got a $100 check once and she spent it all on her friends. It was her birthday money,” Terry laughed.
Chief Mettille says Chillicothe is a great city, and he’s heartened to hear the response from the community.
“Hopefully there’s more individuals who see something like that and are against it, and they speak volumes against it. Compared to the few weak individuals who act upon this and act against who they construe as weak. Realistically, they need to look at themselves. They are the weak ones, they are the ones that are trying to victimize somebody else, for whatever reason in their minds, they feel so important or bigger, better than this person. The community of Chillicothe has spoken up,” Mettille said.
Community members have created a GoFundMe for her, you can find it here.
Makenna is a student at IVC in Chillicothe. Her father Terry and Chief Mettille say those involved in the video also go to school there.
Dr. Chad Allison, Superintendent of Schools, issued the following statement.
The IVC School District administration and family were extremely disturbed by the video that was posted on social media last night showing the harassment of one of our students. This is behavior that is unacceptable in our schools, community, and society at-large. We would like to thank our students and parents who shared this incredibly sad video with our administrators through our Safety Tip-line and email. As a community, we appreciate the Chillicothe Police Department and their quick response in handling this situation. Makenna is a very caring, hard working student at IVC High School and must be treated better. We encourage the entire Peoria community to take this opportunity to recognize and appreciate our individual differences, and celebrate what makes each of us unique.Dr. Chad Allison | Superintendent of Schools
In the video aired on WMBD/WYZZ, the faces of the minors have all been blurred.