It’s been called many things, including “knockout king”, “point ‘em out, knock ‘em out”, and most commonly, “the knockout game”. Whatever label you slap on it, however, the purpose of this violent game is the same – knockout an unsuspecting victim with a single punch. Unfortunately, incidents of this specific form of brutality are increasing in frequency across the United States, most notably in many major cities and regions, such as Boston, St. Louis, and New York.

What is “The Knockout Game”?

The reason for the surge in this type of crime is hotly debated, with many people feeling that it has to do with the notoriety of recording the event and uploading it to social media. Others believe there are socio-economic elements at play. Still, there are those who believe that the events are in no way connected, and that it’s all much ado about nothing. The history of reported knockout game-style assaults, however, tells another story.

The Brutal History

The media seems split on whether or not the knockout game is even real. However, to the countless victims who are left to heal emotionally and physically from the brutal assaults, it is no myth. In fact, one only has to do a quick search on YouTube to discover just how real the knockout game has become. Countless videos have been posted showing the knockout game in action, Self-defense videos have sprung up, and news media from around the world are shown debating the racial implications of this violent game.

The participants in the knockout game also show a pattern of behavior that indicate the game has evolved, and has moved well beyond being just a trend. Reports from the earliest attacks suggest that, at one point, the game involved a group of assailants who took turns hitting the victim until he or she was rendered unconscious. The assailant who was responsible for the punch that knocked out the victim was then considered to be the “knockout king”. The first known fatality of the knockout game represents this version perfectly.

On September 18, 1992, the first known fatality reported in the U.S. as a result of the knockout game occurred on the campus of MIT. Three youths, one of whom later told the police they were playing a version of the knockout game, attacked two young men and robbed them. In this instance, the victim who died was also stabbed.

If there is any good news to come out of this very real and brutal game it is the fact that the attacks have seemed to scale back in terms of their level of violence. Instead of taking turns to see who can land the knockout punch, the majority of the attackers are now ‘only’ hitting their victims once with the goal of attaining the knockout with a single blow. So, who is now being targeted for these one punch attacks?

Age and Gender Implications

No FBI data exists regarding the knockout game because they aren’t singling it out as a unique act. Instead, the game is lumped into the FBI’s violent assault categories, so it makes it difficult to gauge exactly how many assailants and victims there have been altogether. However, the data that has been collected by the media shows that in many cases, specific groups of people are being targeted, including females and the elderly. In other words, the assailants seek out those they consider to be weak targets who will not fight back. Here are several examples:

  • On November 24, 2013, Conrad Alvin Barrett, 27, allegedly struck a 79-yr old man in the face, fracturing his jaw in two places with a single blow.
  • On November 29, 2013, 76-yr old Yvonne Small became a victim of the knockout game after she was punched from behind while walking down the street in East New York.
  • In April, 2011, 72-yr old Hoang Nguyen was murdered in St. Louis in a knockout game attack.
  • Phoebe Connolly was attacked while riding her bicycle on November 15, 2013 in Washington D.C.
  • In late December, 2013, a woman in Port Allen, Louisiana was punched in the neck while walking to pick up a newspaper.
  • In early January, 2014, a woman in Los Gatos, California, was punched in the face after dropping off her daughter at dance class.

Fighting Back

Unfortunately for the aggressors, as the knockout game spreads and the victim tally grows, people have started fighting back. Citizens have had enough. Reports are cropping up of men and women turning the tables on their attackers, victims shooting their assailants, and others who are teaching their communities how to defend themselves against such assaults.

State lawmakers are taking notice, as well, and introducing bills intended to provide for stiffer penalties for those convicted of assault while playing the knockout game. For example, lawmakers in Oklahoma, Illinois, and New York want to try juveniles as adults. Illinois also wants to automatically upgrade knockout game-related charges to felonies, which would come with a prison sentence ranging from three to seven years. Wisconsin takes it a step further and wants to charge anyone videotaping such assaults, while in New Jersey, lawmakers are hoping to pass a bill that would require mandatory minimum sentences for these types of assaults. New York is proposing the stiffest penalties, with convictions potentially coming with a mandatory sentence of up to 25 years.

Whether or not the knockout game is real is not open to debate. It is a very real and sometimes lethal game that carries lifelong consequences for its victims. Along with the help of lawmakers though, the survivors, who have now started fighting back, may soon be able to deliver a powerful one-two punch, making their assailants victims of their own game.

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