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3 girls arrested after brutal beating caught on camera

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MINNEAPOLIS (KMSP) -

As Minneapolis police announce arrests in a violent attack that was filmed and posted on social media, officers are also warning people that carrying expensive smart phones in public could put them at risk.

Last week, Fox 9 News spoke with several witnesses who came upon an assault in progress near Roosevelt High School that left a teenaged girl bleeding from the nose and mouth.

FOX 9 ARCHIVE: Brutal beating of teen caught on camera

Although police were investigating the case as an aggravated robbery, few details were released before the arrest announcement on Tuesday. Now, police confirm that stealing a smartphone was a partial motive for the three juvenile suspects.

Most people don't carry large amounts of cash anymore -- and some don't carry any at all, but most people do have a smartphone. For thieves, that's just as good.

"There's a huge black market for electronic devices and that's a problem right now," Cmdr. Bruce Folkens told Fox 9 News.

Yet, the greatest irony in the Minneapolis attack is that while police believe the girls who committed the assault wanted to steal a smart phone, witnesses at the scene used their own devices to capture pictures and video of the event -- evidence that became crucial in making the arrests.

A video of the assault in progress was briefly posted on Facebook, but before it was taken down, it was brought to the attention of the police liaison at Roosevelt High School. Investigators say that footage was a great help in arresting the three girls who are accused of using pepper spray on the teenage victim they left bruised and bloodied.

However, even though the footage proved helpful, police say they would have preferred it if witnesses would have dialed 911 instead of pressing record.

"I wish somebody had used their cell phone at the time to call 911 so a police officer could've intervened at the time to stave off the injuries the young female had to suffer during this incident," Folkens said.

Police say the girl who was beaten will recover, but now that the three teenaged girls are in custody for the crime, they are looking to see if the trio could be behind any similar crimes.

"The investigators, right now, are looking at other open robbery and assault-type cases that they've had," Folkens confirmed.

As the Fox 9 Investigators demonstrated in February, smartphone robberies are a growing problem for police everywhere. It's a crime fueled by demand overseas, where used cell phones still sell for thousands.

FOX 9 ARCHIVE: The 'Apple picking' economy

Locally, police say the problem is the stores and mall kiosks that offer cash for cell phones -- and that's why Minnesota lawmakers are pushing a bill that would ban paying cash for a used device.

"At certain malls where they have a kiosk where they can put an electronic device in and get cash out for it, it's pretty easy," Folken said.

Legislators in Minnesota favor payments that can be tracked to a seller, and U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar is pushing a federal kill switch bill in an effort to make stolen phones worthless.

"Shut off the marketplace for those items," she urged.

In the interim, police warn that it is no different to walk down the street with a fistful of hundred dollar bills in your hand than it is to walk down the road with a smartphone.

As for the teenage victim of this Minneapolis robbery.. police say she's doing ok. In Minneapolis, Rob Olson, Fox 9 news.

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