Violent “Knock Out Game” Played Here Before – and Elsewhere

Kevin Killeen

ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOX) —This week’s fatal beating of an immigrant in south St. Louis — by teens allegedly playing the “Knock Out Game” — is not the first time St. Louis Police have dealt with the problem, which has made headlines in the past elsewhere in Missouri and around the country.

Police are still seeking three additional suspects in last week’s beating death of Hoang Nguyen.   The 72-year old was walking with his wife in an alley in the 3800 block of Spring Saturday, when they were attacked by a group of four young people.

elex murphy Violent Knock Out Game Played Here Before   and Elsewhere

Elex Murphy

One suspect, 18-year old Elex Murphy, has been charged with First-Degree Murder, First-Degree Assault and Armed Criminal Action.   Police say Murphy confessed that the attack was the result of the “Knock Out Game.”   He’s being held without bond. 

Retired Sgt. Don Pizzo tells KMOX he recalls “three or four” reports of the “Knock Out Game” or “the Knock Out Kings” going back to 2008. “Normally it was a group of black males, one of which would strike him as hard as he could in the face, attempting to knock him out with one punch,” Pizzo said. The attacks fit a pattern, Pizzo recalls, black attackers on a white victim — and the victim was often an older person walking alone. 

“I haven’t heard of anyone being seriously injured or killed,” Pizzo said, “I have had them being taken to the hospital I remember in these police reports. They did require medical attention.” Pizzo also recalls that the department issued to its officers an “informational bulletin” warning them about the “Knock Out Kings,” but he remembers no clear department strategy for dealing with the problem.

KMOX requested an interview with Police Chief Dan Isom to ask him how the department has responded in the past and plans to respond in the future, now that someone has been killed. A department spokeswoman responded that Isom is out of town for the weekend in Kansas City.   The spokeswoman issued a statement: “What helped police to learn that this case was one that involved this game is the fact that the suspect himself confessed to that.   While investigators can certainly examine other cases of assaults to try to determine what the motive is, there will not be tangible, physical evidence to prove that this game was the motive. “The suspect’s admission here was key.  In terms of combating such a game, it frankly appears to be a crime of opportunity.   If a suspect wanted to engage in this activity, all he or she would likely be looking for is a person or persons to make their target. “Without knowing where or when such a person may strike, our best and greatest resource is the community.   We cannot urge people enough to call 911 when the see something that looks suspicious .”

Speaking for himself, retired Police Sgt. Pizzo has some different advice.  “Be armed.   Be armed because if you’re not prepared to defend yourself in one way, shape or form that you’re going to end up like this,” Pisso said, “either in the hospital or like this Vietnamese guy.”

City Alderwoman reacts:

Alderwoman Jennifer Florida says she has not heard of previous ‘knockout’ type incidents. She says not that this one has occurred, and an investigation is ongoing, hopefully police can connect the dots. “Maybe you’ve heard of an isolated incident last year but maybe another incident was so far removed that you didn’t connect the dots and so now when you finally have someone in custody you are going to get their story” said Florida.

Florida hopes this neighborhood reacts to this crime the way a nearby neighborhood did when a postal worker was shot a few years ago and bands together to fight crime.

Another attack, caught on tape:

“Knock Out Game” attacks have made headlines before in Missouri and elsewhere around the country. According to CBS affiliate KRCG TV, in June of 2009, Columbia, MO,  resident Adam Taylor was brutally attacked and beaten in a downtown Columbia parking garage by a group of seven teenagers playing the game.

The city-owned video surveillance cameras at the 10th and Cherry garage recorded the attack.

The footage shows seven young boys run up behind Taylor. One of the boys punches him and sends him crashing into the corner of the brick wall. However, the attack doesn’t stop there; the teenagers come back two more times to kick and rob him.

This “game” left Taylor with bruising of the brain, severe whiplash, scratches on his face and internal bleeding. Taylor later became an advocate for the installation of more security cameras around the city.

Earlier this year, in Hoboken, New Jersey, police made five arrests in connection with a “Knock Out Game” attack on a 25 year old man at a mass transit station. The oldest alleged attacker was 19, the youngest was only 12 years old.

Comments from UMSL Criminologist:

When it comes to people who would beat up another person for no reason, what makes them tick? Associate Professor of Criminology at UMSL Beth Huebner says probably nothing you haven’t already heard: “I’ve been talking to gang members a lot as part of my research , you ask them ‘has anyone in your family been a victim’ and violence is very much a part of their every day life” said Professor Huebner.

“Everybody I’ve talked to has had an immediate family member either severly injured or killed” said Professor Huebner. Violence associated with drugs, alcohol and being disrespected.  Professor Huebner says in all her talks with gang members she’s not heard of the so called ‘knock out’ game.

Copyright KMOX


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