Marlon A. Walker and Doug Moore, STL Today (St. Louis), April 21, 2011
A man beaten to death this weekend on the city’s south side was reportedly the victim of a game involving “unprovoked attacks on innocent bystanders.”
The alderman representing the Dutchtown West neighborhood where Hoang D. Nguyen, 72, was fatally beaten said police have said the attackers were part of a group targeting people across the city.
On Wednesday, Elex Levell Murphy, 18, of the 5400 block of Geraldine Avenue, was charged with one count each of first-degree murder and first-degree assault and two counts of armed criminal action in the attack on Nguyen and his wife, Yen, according to court records. A judge has ordered him held without bail.
Murphy and three other people approached the Nguyens in an alley at the 3800 block of Spring Avenue at 10:45 a.m. Saturday as the couple headed home from a nearby Vietnamese market, according to court records.
Yen Nguyen told authorities that Murphy walked up to her husband, grabbed his jacket and punched him in the head, causing him to fall to the ground, court records say. Murphy then punched Yen Nguyen in the eye, causing severe bruises and an eye socket fracture. A second man kicked Hoang Nguyen in the abdomen, injuring his ribs.
Hoang Nguyen died later Saturday of his injuries at St. Louis University Hospital.
Police said they were still looking for the three others, a man and two women in their teens or 20s, in the attack.
Murphy was taken into custody Tuesday. In an interview, he made a statement placing himself at the scene, court records say. He also told authorities that the attack was part of what he called the “knockout game,” which targets innocent people.
But Alderman Jennifer Florida, whose ward includes the area where the Nguyens were attacked, said she has been told the couple were victims of a group that has targeted others.
“I have learned in the last few days that there is a group of kids that randomly pick victims and prey on the vulnerable, and this is happening all over the city,” Florida said, declining to reveal her source, only to say it was someone familiar with the investigation.
She said police told her they don’t believe the attack is a hate crime. Until all the attackers are in custody and have been questioned, she said such a motive should not be ruled out.
News that their family member’s death was possibly part of a game is even more difficult to comprehend.
“People are walking down the street, minding their own business. Good people,” Billy Nguyen said. “What kind of game is it where people go around and hit random people?”