Panicking lawmakers request federal help against spreading ‘knockout’ game
Violent “knockout” attacks – where people randomly approach strangers on the street and punch them in the head – are spreading across the United States, and New York State lawmakers are asking the federal government for help.
New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind has written a letter to both President Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, pushing for action against those participating in “knockout games.” Typically, these attacks involve an individual, sometimes flanked by others who record the incident, who stalks or walks by a pedestrian and attempts to knock them unconscious with a fast, powerful blow to the head. In at least two cases, people have been killed.
Outside of New York, similar incidents have been reported around the country, including Washington DC, Pennsylvania, and California. Investigations are currently under way concerning a possible link between the cases.
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In New York, Assemblyman Jim Tedisco has introduced a new bill that would label future “knockout games” as gang assaults. According to WCBS New York, those convicted of the crime under the measure would face up to 25 years in prison, and would be tried as adults regardless of their age. The proposal also includes prison time for anyone convicted of recording the assault as it happens.
Meanwhile, New York City Council Member Peter Vallone Jr. is pushing the Police Department to act quickly, as there have been at least seven alleged “knockout” attacks in Brooklyn since October.
“I’ve already written to [Police Chief] Ray Kelly,” Vallone Jr. said to WCBS. “I want to know what we’re going to do about it. These kids need to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, and we need to ensure that this doesn’t keep happening.”
The NYPD has increased the number of officers on patrol in neighborhoods where the attacks have occurred.
Victims of the assaults have ranged dramatically in age, from a 12-year-old boy to a 78-year-old woman, who was knocked to the ground by a punch to the head in broad daylight in Midwood, Brooklyn, last week.
In Jersey City, a 46-year-old man died after being punched in the head from behind, according to the Associated Press. He fell and struck his head on an iron fence. His three attackers, captured the assault on video and later arrested, were 13 and 14 years old.
In California, ABC 10 News reported that a man was struck as he was crossing the street.
“It’s hard to excuse this behavior, there’s no purpose to this,” Jeffrey Butts, a psychologist specializing in juvenile delinquency at the John Jay College ofCriminal Justice, said to the AP.
“The behavior of the sudden assault of someone who seems helpless has appealed to the idiotic impulsive quality of adolescence forever,” he added. “But there are now bragging rights beyond your immediate circle, when this is on television and online.”