National media outlets have recently become aware of a violent "game" that has been taking place in major metropolitan areas for some time. In "the knockout game," a group of teens approaches an unsuspecting stranger, and one of the group members tries to knock the victim out with a single punch.
Knockout Game Assaults
Although police say teens--often gang members--have been playing the game for years, social media has caused it to grow. While one person tries to execute the "one hitter quitter"--the one-punch knockout--his friends record the assault, which may then be uploaded to YouTube or social networks. This increase in exposure has led to an increase in assaults, with some of the hardest hit neighborhoods (no pun intended) seeing as many as nine assaults in only a few weeks.
In some neighborhoods, police have increased patrols, and in New York, a state legislator proposed a bill that would make classify "the knockout game" as gang assault, with defendants charged as adults, and with a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison.
Penalties for Assault
Harsh penalties may be necessary as a way to curb the violence. Currently, many of these assaults are charged as simple assault, a misdemeanor. However, the consequences of the game can be deadly.
In fact, the knockout game has been connected to as many as seven deaths. In one case, a man was beaten and stomped to death after a 13-year-old boy attempted to knock him out with one punch. The boy and his 16-year-old accomplice were each sentenced to only 18 months for the fatal assault.
Videos of the attacks are sickening. Because the victims are unsuspecting of any danger, they are completely vulnerable. They are blindsided by a punch and drop to the ground without any defense. Even if the blow itself is not fatal, the fall can be. A 46-year-old man was killed when he was rendered unconscious in the knockout game and fell into an iron fence, breaking his neck. Two teens--aged 13 and 14--have been charged in his death.
While the idea behind the attacks is to prove the hitter's strength and toughness, hitting an unsuspecting and vulnerable victim shows nothing except cowardice and callousness. Victims include a 12-year-old boy and a 78-year-old woman.
While some say there is no specific criteria for finding a victim, others say that the crimes are racially motivated. In many cases, the perpetrators are black teens and the victims white or Jewish.
Potentially Tried as Hate Crimes
Some prosecutors are considering trying the cases as hate crimes. Often, crimes like this start in large cities and gradually work their way to smaller urban centers.
With Oklahoma's concealed carry and open carry laws, however, it might be a bit more challenging for a participant to choose a truly vulnerable victim--as is evidenced by a case out of Lansing, Michigan. Marvell Weaver, 17, a teen playing a variation of the knockout game attempted to use a taser on a father waiting for his daughter at a bus stop. When the stun gun misfired, the father pulled out his own legally carried and concealed gun and shot the boy twice. Weaver was sentenced to a year in jail for the assault.