6 “Knockout”-Style Attacks Hit The City

CORA LEWIS PHOTOSMedical researcher Lawrence Hsieh, schooled in Taekwondo, didn’t have time to defend himself when a kid KO’ed him on Church Street in one of six assaults in two days that appear to mimic a violent game hitting the East Coast.

Walking on the overpass between North and South Frontage at 5:30 p.m., Hsieh (pictured above) encountered a group of three young men. Without warning, one approached him and sucker-punched him in the nose, knocking Hsieh to the ground. The assailant and his buddies took off down the street, laughing.

“The whole ordeal was over in 30 seconds,” said Hsieh, who may have broken his nose as a result.

Hseih’s attacker was following the script of the so-called “Knockout Game,” which consists of punching random strangers. To become a “Knockout King,” the player must bring his target to the ground with one jab.

The game has been reported in recent days in several East Coast cities, including New York, New Jersey, and Washington D. C. Incidents date back to 2011.

Five other similar attacks took place near Hsieh’s in the early evening hours on Monday and Tuesday. All were near the train station, the Church Street South housing project, and Church Street, according to top Hill South cop Lt. Joe Witkowski.

“The common thing seems to be there’s no attempt at theft. It’s an unprovoked assault,” Witkowski said.

Based on similar reports, attackers may be motivated by malice, machismo, or glory, in the form of Internet fame. Video footage of attacks can go viral.

The pattern: a group of males approaches, somebody hits the victim, then everyone flees, according to Witkowski. None of the victims suffered “serious” or life-threatening injuries, he said.

Police haven’t identified the attackers yet. Witkowski said he “guesses” the same group is responsible for all the attacks.

The phenomenon is new, he said. “I don’t think we’ve seen this anywhere I’m aware of around the city.”

Six in Two Nights

The first attack took place Monday at 7 p.m., according to Witkowski. A group of six to eight young men approached a 28-year-old man between Union and Columbus avenues. One punched him in the face, knocking him to the ground. Then they all ran.

A half hour later, a group of young men faced off with a 29-year-old man a block away at Church Street South and Union. One struck the man, again in the face, and again they all fled.

On Tuesday, right around the same time of Hsieh’s attack, eight males descended on a 30-year-old man near Columbus Avenue and Liberty Street. Once more, one of the males punched the victim, then ran off with his comrades.

A half hour later, at 6 pm. a group fell upon a 68-year-old woman at Loop Road and Portsea Street, attacking her from behind. One of the young men struck her, then ran off with the group. She fell and hit her head on the pavement. She declined medical attention.

The last reported attack occurred around 6:45, when a group of males approached a 31-year-old male at Columbus and Church Street South. Again, one person punched the man in the face, gave him a kick, then, laughing, ran off with the group.

An “Intimate” Crime

Hsieh lives in West Hartford and works at Yale’s medical school, where he studies the genetics of autism. He said he has been a victim of theft and burglary in the past, but never a crime “on this intimate a level.”

“I’ve never experienced face-to-face violence, where you see the person you are going to violate or who violates you up close,” he said.

According to similar reports in other cities, the “Knockout” game is said to spread through social media, with knocker-outers posting video of their successful hits online.

Hsieh said he didn’t see anyone filming his encounter. “There was no flash and no LED light I could see.” Otherwise, the incident “exactly matched” reports of knockouts from CBS and other news outlets, he said.

On Tuesday evening, Hsieh was heading for his bus stop at 1 Church St. across from Gateway Community College. He started walking from the corner of Cedar and College, then cut through a doctors’ complex toward the Green to save time.

“It wasn’t very bright out,” he said. “Either a streetlight was out or it was too early for them to have come on.”

Three young men in hoodies were walking toward him on the street.

“I concluded that they weren’t old because they had that young kid swag when they walked,” Hsieh said. “And because they were about my height—five-nine or five-ten.”

The boys were backlit by the traffic, and no light caught their faces, so Hsieh said he couldn’t identify them.

Suddenly, when the group was about three feet away, one of the young men broke from the other two. “So I was preparing myself for a tussle or a grab-and-snatch situation,” said Hsieh.

Instead, he got socked between the eyes.

“The guy ran two steps and right-hooked me on the nose,” said Hsieh. “I stumbled back a little and fell on my butt.”

He popped back up, ready to “brace for further impact,” he said, but the gang of three was already running down Church on the train station side, and Hsieh had to catch his bus.

“Then I realized I had a hot liquid dripping down my face,” he said. His nose was badly bloodied.

Hsieh ran to his stop, making the bus; he held his hands to his face. Some passengers found some napkins for him, which staunched the bleeding after 20 minutes.

When he got home he iced his face and went to sleep. In the morning, Hsieh called the New Haven police, Yale police, and posted to Facebook about what happened to him.

One friend commented that she saw something similar to his description that same night after dinner. “She got spooked, so she ran,” Hsieh said.

On his way to work, talking to his fellow commuters about the crime, Hsieh learned about the “Knockout” phenomenon.

“I was telling my bus mates they should watch out because many of them walk the same path I do, and one of them said they saw a news piece about this game kids are playing, that spreads through social media,” he said. Hsieh Googled the game, found a CBS story, and recognized the experience as his own.

“For The Fun Of It”

Hsieh went to the doctor on Wednesday. He was told he probably has a broken nose, but the doctors couldn’t say for sure because his nose is so swollen.

Two days after the hit, the swelling still hadn’t subsided enough for Hsieh to know how badly his nose is damaged. “If they determine there’s a big enough bone displacement, they’ll have to set it,” he said.

Though he’s not in discomfort throughout the day, he says he dreads having to blow his nose. “I hope it heals before cold season,” he said.

Hsieh said he was initially worried that media reports might “further exacerbate the spread” of the attacks, but he decided that it was better to warn people so they can take preventative measures.

“This attack matched all the symptoms exactly,” he said, since the knockout crew didn’t attempt to rob him or beat him up further. As with characters out of “A Clockwork Orange” or “Fight Club,” their motivations seem more opaque. And after one hit, they took off, apparently entertained.

Hsieh said he thinks the group did it “for the fun of it, the thrill.”

It wasn’t fun for Hsieh.

Anyone with information about the attacks should call (203) 946-6304.


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posted by: robn on November 21, 2013  5:38pm

A 68 year old woman. Seriously?
Better watch out kids because the knockout game might end tragically for you.

posted by: Citizen X on November 21, 2013  5:51pm

Only when in groups and only by surprise. What cowards.

posted by: Yaakov on November 21, 2013  5:59pm

Lt. Joe Witkowski said that: “none of the victims suffered “serious” or life-threatening injuries, he said.”

Really? Perhaps not in New Haven, and not yet.

Michael Daniels of Syracuse was killed in a game of “knockout.” (http://goo.gl/5NDruu) So was Ralph Erick Santiago of Hoboken (http://goo.gl/f9zxvn), Colton Ryan Gleason of St. Cloud (http://goo.gl/DlRrv), and Yen Nguyen of St. Louis (http://goo.gl/rt8Yci).

Closer to home, Matthew Chew of New London was killed in a game of “knockout” (http://goo.gl/ODj1WF) and last year, a man in Meriden nearly had to stand trial for stabbing two teens who tried to play the “knockout” game with him (http://goo.gl/8wuQ36).

It seems to me to be pretty serious and potentially life-threatening.

posted by: Bill Saunders on November 21, 2013  6:04pm

Another Social Media VIrus is upon us.
I do really think time is short for humanity

posted by: Gauss on November 21, 2013  6:34pm

What a stupid game. I hope these people are caught soon.

Please don’t tell me this is happening because we don’t create enough opportunities and entertainment for young people.

posted by: Edward Francis on November 21, 2013  8:04pm

It’s just a matter of time before the knockout puncher is met with a counter-one from the barrel of a weapon. Self defense!

posted by: Wooster Squared on November 21, 2013  9:06pm

I think the real problem is that these poor youths just don’t have enough fun stuff to do. Maybe some midnight basketball would help.

posted by: Anderson Scooper on November 21, 2013  10:56pm

This game is nothing new. Back in 1990, while visiting Harvard Square, I was randomly punched in the face along these same lines, in what must have been some sort of gang initiation.

The kid took my baseball hat as a trophy and took off with his buddy. But fortunately a plain clothes policeman was there to chase and tackle the punk. (And recover my hat.)

Changing gears, kudos to the 24/7’s for bringing national attention to this “game” and launching gosh knows how many copy-cats. If I run across O’Reilly or one of his ilk, I might just have to get into the game myself..

posted by: Edward_H on November 22, 2013  2:41am

Even if someone is armed these sneak attacks are almost impossible to defend yourself against. An sucker punch like as described here would stun even a person who is in top shape. Your best defense is to keep aware of your surroundings at all times. Especially if you are walking alone and you see a group of teeens that fit the desciption of the teens in the various “Knock out Game” articles and videos scattered throughout the Internet. Duck into a nearby store or cross the street if you can do so without exposing your back. Or if you choose just make sure you get a good look at the clothing or tattoos of the assailants.

NHI: Please make sure to let us know when the usual people propose another “stop the Violence” rally on this subject. They usually work so well to curb crime and criminal activity. Or better yet maybe thye can protest O’Reilly since these youths are apparently watching his show and getting ideas from him.

posted by: outspoken on November 22, 2013  8:36am

I am likely to be guilty of profiling for the rest of my days, unless popular culture can come to my rescue.  Talk about a few bad apples spoiling it for all.

posted by: robn on November 22, 2013  9:46am

Its too bad because its taken years to dissolve the 80’s Chapel Square Mall intimidating-teen image that New Haven had. All in all I think most of the kids in this city are pretty nice and I’m pretty sure this fad is just a tiny group of hard core kids. I hope the good kids narc on the bad kids if they brag or post videos…their behavior is bad for everybody.

posted by: Ozzie on November 22, 2013  10:28am

Unfortunatly it won’t stop until one of these people who gets punched pulls out a gun and takes out his attackers !

posted by: remarra on November 22, 2013  10:41am

I was attacked on the evening of August 28 on Beach Street in West Haven while walking my dog.  A young man—not black—ran up from behind, swung me around and punched me in the eye, then ran off.  My eyeglasses flew off my face, and I fell to the ground, bleeding profusely; I was grateful not to have hit my head on the sidewalk pavement. Witnesses told the police that the man ran down the street, then up 3rd Ave Extension. He didn’t try to rob me. It was odd that he would try this on someone walking a 60# dog, since he had no way of knowing that the dog is elderly, and wouldn’t react, or have time to. Someone pulled their car over and called the police, who showed up, along with an EMT team and van. the K-9 unit and two other patrol cars went looking for the assailant, but never found him. I ended up with 40 stitches to 3 lacerations around my eye, and a 4mm displacement fracture to my lower occipital bone.  Oddly, the WH Police Dept never bothered to report this on their “MyPD” alert system.  When I asked detectives a week later why, they shrugged, and said that they don’t make that determination. I’m not sure there was anything yet in the news about this “knockout” game, so among explanations the likeliest seemed to be that he was on PCP or “bath salts.”  I’m now reconsidering that explanation as less likely than that he was playing “knockout.”

posted by: anonymous on November 22, 2013  12:40pm

As Yaakov points out above, this behavior can be deadly. I wonder if the attackers know what it feels like to be an orphan or a bereaved parent. 

Other news reports suggest that strangers are specifically targeted on the basis of their race and ethnicity. In Brooklyn, several victims have been Orthodox Jews or people of Chinese ancestry.

If this is ultimately proven to be a “hate crime” type of situation, as some have suggested, shouldn’t the Federal Government be getting involved and flooding the streets with plainclothes agents?  Without a rapid response from the FBI, we risk an escalation of violence.

posted by: robn on November 22, 2013  1:02pm

If not death, brain damage. Hitting someone in the head really hard is extremely stupid.

posted by: anonymous on November 22, 2013  3:13pm

“Knockout Game” Player Shot By Concealed Carry Permittee

November 21, 2013

“Weaver claims that this was his six or seventh attempt at knocking someone out, and says that his arrest is a “lesson learned.” He said he usually played the game when he was “bored” and usually under the influence of drugs. He was inspired by seeing knockout game videos on the internet.”


posted by: ramonesfan on November 25, 2013  3:27pm

The jury in the Trayvon Martin case was generally aware of this type of behavior when they decided to acquit George Zimmerman. I’m not saying Trayvon was looking to play “knockout” with Mr. Zimmerman that night in Florida, but the contents of his cell phone revealed that he was a fan of mixed martial arts fighting, and hence prone to violence.  It’s the same mentality that led to the shooting at the Key Club Cabaret.

posted by: Etrigan on November 25, 2013  5:07pm

FYI: “The Knockout Game Myth and Its Racist Roots:” http://www.patheos.com/blogs/christandpopculture/2013/11/the-knockout-game-myth-and-its-racist-roots/

posted by: Edward_H on November 25, 2013  6:48pm

It seems even Al Sharpton has acknowledged this supposed “myth” and is condemning it.


posted by: Etrigan on November 25, 2013  7:27pm

The Post is just contradicting the Times, because otherwise they’d have no reason to exist:


posted by: anonymous on November 25, 2013  11:28pm

Etrigan - whether or not the we can prove the game is a myth or not is an important academic exercise. Before we can get to that, we should realize that perception is the reality. If communities do not respond to incidents like these, then they risk an escalation of violence.

Responses could include targeted law enforcement, but could also include a communications plan that seeks to defuse potentially violent situations by persuading people that this game is not really happening.

An example of the latter, would be asking the Yale Police and New Haven Police not to tell the entire campus and city that assaults are part of a “knockout game,” and instead refer to them as the same types of isolated random aggravated assaults that have always taken place in New Haven and other cities for hundreds of years:


posted by: Edward_H on November 26, 2013  12:06am


“The Post is just contradicting the Times, because otherwise they’d have no reason to exist:”

Nonsense. The Post is simply making a factual report of Sharpton’s stance on the issue. Following your logic these other sources who reported on Sharpton’s statement are just trying to “contradict” the NYT as well.



and Sharpton in his own words from HuffPo


If you had said Sharpton has a long history or promoting myths like Tawana Brawley or the Duke rapes and should not be trusted I would conceed you have a point.

posted by: Etrigan on November 26, 2013  10:02am

Conservatives love to cherry-pick evidence to support a point; what in rhetoric is called the “positive bias” fallacy.  It’s amusing in this instance that said evidence involves a figure who is usually one of the big bogeymen.  If Obama were to suddenly declare the “knockout game” a serious urban problem, your head would probably explode.

Anon.- “targeted law enforcement” sounds like a euphemism for racial profiling to me; but I agree that that the press and the NHPD fanning the fires of a frenzy is in nobody’s interest—it does encourage “copy-cat” crimes and, more importantly, it is a lie; public policy predicated on lies is fascism.

posted by: Edward_H on November 30, 2013  3:51am


“Conservatives love to cherry-pick evidence to support a point; what in rhetoric is called the “positive bias” fallacy.”

And you have yet to show any evidence to prove your point that:

“The Post is just contradicting the Times, because otherwise they’d have no reason to exist:”

If I “cherry-picked” evidence as you implied you could have at least attempted to show another well-known civil rights figure who dismissed the existence of this “myth”. But rather you fall into name calling and creating imaginary stories in your head in an attempt to make yourself appear intellectually superior.

But after several days of reading further reports of incidents like this and looking at the crime stats I am starting to be convinced this is not a ‘myth” but more of the media suddenly deciding to play up incidents that have always been happening. These sneak attacks against the weak are nothing new, these cowardly acts are just business as usual from the usual suspects.