Punched to the ground, left bruised, brain damaged and sometimes even dead–these are the vulnerable victims of an increasingly popular ‘game’.
‘Knockout King’ is the frightening phenomenon that has claimed lives across the country as teenagers and young adults seek out sick thrills.
In the planned attacks, a group will appoint a leader and then choose a defenceless victim at random.
They punch the victim to the ground, sometimes filming the attack on mobile phones.
Reports from across the country–including Massachusetts, New Jersey and Chicago–have identified victims as immigrants, elderly and often alone.
Films of the attacks are then uploaded to social networking sites or YouTube, in turn fuelling others to create copycat videos, experts believe.
The FBI does not keep records on the number of Knockout King attacks, but St. Louis Police Chief Dan Isom told the Associated Press the city has seen about 10 Knockout King attacks over the past 15 months.
‘These individuals have absolutely no respect for human life,’ St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay said.
One recent example that sparked outrage across the country was footage that surfaced from a Chicago train station.
A group of young males were seen following an elderly homeless man, before punching him in the face and knocking him out. The youths then jumped on a train, laughing at their sickening exploits.
The horrific video received a quarter of a million views within two days after it was posted on a hip hop website.
The teenager who had punched the man was not arrested as police were unable to track down the man to see if he wanted to press charges.
Another even less fortunate victim was retired teacher Hoang Nguyen, 72, who had moved from Vietnam to St. Louis, Missouri to be closer to his daughter.
He was returning to his apartment with his wife after a daytime trip to the grocery store when they were approached by a group in an alley.
Stepping in front of his wife, Hoang was savagely beaten by the youths and died from his injuries.
Elex Murphy, 18, was charged with first-degree murder and allegedly told police the attack was part of the Knockout King game.
One victim who lived to tell his tale was Matthew Quain, 51, who was randomly attacked in St. Louis in October.
‘I don’t remember much of what happened,’ Quain, who was found lying in a pool of blood by the city mayor, told the Associated Press.
‘I was hanging out with a friend, celebrating the Cardinals in the World Series. I went to the store and saw a group of kids who looked out of place, suspicious, but I shrugged it off.
‘I got around to the library, and the next thing I remember is waking up on the corner with the mayor standing next to me. I tried to say “hi” but my jaw was broken.’
Quain, who works in a pizza restaurant in the city, suffered a broken jaw and a cracked skull and still has headaches and memory problems.
Despite raising money through fundraisers he is unsure how he will pay his medical bills.
Experts believe the phenomenon is driven by a thirst for attention.
‘We know that juveniles don’t think out consequences clearly,’ Beth Huebner, an associate professor of criminology at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, told the Associated Press.
‘They see something on YouTube and say, “I want to get that sort of attention, too.” They don’t think about the person they’re attacking maybe hitting their head.’