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Coming to a town near you? The “knockout game”

NIT – The hot new crime spreading across the country is called the “knockout game” and authorities – ranging from police to prosecutors to lawmakers – are attempting to battle the brutal fad even as it frighteningly becomes more popular.

The U.S. Justice Department says that the “knockout game” is an assault in which an assailant aims to knock out an unsuspecting victim with one punch. The conduct has been known by other names and there have been similar incidents dating as far back as 1992.  Reports from across the country have described the attacks, typically undertaken by teens with victims described as elderly or unsuspecting persons.  Sometimes the attacks are racially-driven.

Today, a 27-year-old Texas man, Conrad Barrett, was charged with a federal hate crime after a racially-motivated assault of a 79-year-old African American man. The complaint states that Barrett called the assault a “knockout” and used his own cell phone to take video of the incident after reportedly working up the “courage” for a week to play the “knockout game.”  Barrett allegedly punched the man with such force that the man immediately fell to the ground. Barrett then laughed and said “knockout,” as he ran to his vehicle and fled, according to allegations.

If convicted, Barrett faces a statutory maximum of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

In Illinois, a new law was proposed in recent weeks to combat the knockout game that would increase penalties for the attacks.  Republican Illinois State Representative Dwight Kay introduced the Knockout Assault Prevention Act, which would bring stiffer penalties if it is proven that an assault is perpetrated with the specific intent to cause the victim to lose consciousness.

Here in Iowa, reports have surfaced of similar attacks at events like the Iowa State Fair, where a 2010 police report said some African-American fairgoers that were involved in attacks were chanting “Beat Whitey Night.”  Some have accused the media and authorities of under-reporting the danger so as not to keep people away from events like the Iowa State Fair.

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