Random assault has occurred throughout history, but has it ever been motivated by a game?
A dangerous phenomenon called the knockout game has recently gained increasing popularity and media coverage throughout the nation.
Besides indicating a shameful digression in basic ethical standards, the knockout game has resulted in the death of several victims.
The Knockout Game, also known as “Knockout King,” “Knock ’Em and Drop ’Em” or “One-Hitter-Quitter,” occurs when an individual or group selects a random target and attempts to knock them out in a single, swift punch.
Inflicting unconsciousness is the end goal. One punch completes the deed. Videos of the assaults have even been recorded and posted online by the perpetrators.
When the knockout game first began is difficult to say. One of the earliest references dates back to the 1992 death of an MIT student, according to The Associated Press.
In 2013, three deaths were attributed to the knockout game. These attacks all occurred in New York state, bringing the national death toll up to at least six.
May 23, 2013 — Michael Daniels, 51, was the victim of a single punch ending in a beating that cost him his life. A group of young people, possibly one as young as 10, were responsible for the killing.
As reported by The Post-Standard, none of the attackers knew him and were not provoked to attack him in any way. Witnesses and neighbors suggested that the killing could be the result of the Knockout Game.
Sept. 10, 2013 — CBS documented the death of Ralph Eric Santiago, a 46-year-old homeless man, who died when three teens hit him from behind. The blow caused him to land with his head lodged between two iron fence posts. The teens responsible were 13 and 14 years old.
Sept. 21, 2013 — Jim Gifford, 70, suffered a fatal beating at the hands of Romeo Williams, an 18-year-old.
According to Fox News, Williams knocked Gifford unconscious with a single punch, celebrated by entering the adjacent store, taking off his hat and smiling for the security camera before returning to beat Gifford until stopped by four other men.
Gifford died of his injuries four days later in a hospital.
While the attackers did not reference the knockout game, local police said the incident mirrors other Knockout attempts.
Difficulties arise as authorities try to determine if these unprovoked assaults trace back to an organized game. Not everyone believes the knockout game is a growing trend. Some authorities hold that it is simply a new name for an old crime.
“I haven’t seen any real data across states or in any one jurisdiction that shows that it’s a real thing that needs addressed in a systematic way,” Cedarville criminal justice professor Robert Vaughn said.
In spite of the lack of evidence, several states have proposed bills designed to combat the knockout game. New York, New Jersey and Illinois legislatures all suggest different ways of increasing penalties for participating or even documenting an assault.
“We tend to over-criminalize,” Vaughn said when asked if he believed new legislation would help quell a growing trend. “We tend to overreact sometimes, from a legislative standpoint, when there’s a twist to an old crime, and we try to capture that behavior.”
The Buckeye State is not exempt from random assault. Ohio news station WNBS-10TV reported that on December 21, 2013, a teen from Delaware, Ohio, was walking home when he noticed a group of people following him in a car.
At an intersection, one person jumped out and punched him in the face. The teen declined to reveal his identity but said he believed himself a victim of the knockout game.
In Cedarville, the chances of the knockout game happening look relatively slim. Generally, the attacks have occurred in larger cities, not small, close-knit communities. If youth were to try to participate, they would probably only get away with it once because of the community response, Vaughn said.
The final outcome of the knockout game remains uncertain. Perhaps youth throughout America will latch onto the idea as rapidly as the common cold spreads through a grade school. Perhaps not.
Either way, the sick notion of one person attacking another motivated by a game that ignores the basic rules of respect and civility is disheartening, to say the least.
The notion that such a game could even exist is terrifying.
Kaity Kenniv is a sophomore biblical studies major and a reporter for Cedars. She loves reading by a blazing fireplace, taking long walks in the autumn and a cup of hot tea in the morning.