'Knockout Game' growing in popularity

Sheriff, others fear dangerous trend will head to Jacksonville

By Jim Piggott - Reporter , Jodi Mohrmann - Managing Editor of special projects

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - They are seeing this happen more and more: People walking along minding their own businesses when all the sudden, they get hit right in the face knocking them out.  

The teens have called it Knockout or One Hit Quitter and  the videos have gone viral.  Even though the "Knockout Game" hasn't reached Jacksonville yet, the Sheriff and others fear it will.

The victims are random and the punches are painful.

"I was shocked, I was shocked at the whole narrative of it. Boom came the punch, and down I went, straight down with my face falling and hitting the cold concrete," said a 50-year-old Pittsburgh teacher who was a victim of Knockout.

Since the teacher's attack, the game has spread to Missouri, Minnesota, Illinois, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and Washington D.C.  In some cases the victims have died .

Asked about the problem on the radio, Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford said he has heard of Knockout, but its not here yet.

"They are such cowards they don't want to have a real confrontation," Rutherford told listeners on WJCT.  "I'll tell you what I think we should do is lump that in with hate crimes so what actually gets prosecuted with greater ferocity."

We watched some of the viral Knockout videos with Channel 4's Crime and Safety Analyst Ken Jefferson.

"My first reaction is wow how stupid how low down can you get," said Jefferson.

He was surprised by the callousness and laughter of the kids after the attack, too.

"Well you are committing a crime and you think its funny. It won't be so funny when your sitting in a cell having a talk with the cellmate why you are there," said Jefferson.

Witnesses say these attacks are being carried out by groups of young black teens. That is what we see in the videos that are posted online. They show the victims have been white men, women and Jews.

"This has the propensity to be racial in nature particularly with gangs or groups of people that decide they want to target a certain ethnicity or group of people," warned Jefferson.

Kids we spoke with locally haven't seen Knockout here either, but the community is concerned it's heading this way.

"I think there always needs to be conversation," said John Gunn, the head of the Jacksonville-based group Save our Sons, an organization mentoring young, black males. "Parents have to be engaged in the lives of their children . Because if it surfaces in our city, we need to address it quickly. We need to do it at the level of the schools the community and the family."

So why is Knockout so enticing to kids?  We turned to Criminal  Psychologist Dr. William Meadows who specializes  in analyzing the minds of criminal youth. Meadows says social media is playing a big role in all of this.

"There is an instant way to broadcast what you've done to the world," said Meadows.  "And these kids see these things going on in Youtube.  It seems exciting to them and it has a way of becoming a movie star,  becoming famous. Look, my life may be empty now and no one paying much attention to me  but it real simple to get attention for doing something you and I know is wrong but as far as adolescence, they don't perceive it  as really wrong or having any emotional connection to it."

We asked Ken Jefferson if there's a really away to protect ourselves from Knockout.

"Well this goes to show you always have to be vigilant," said Jefferson. "Even though you don't suspect anything , you just can't trust anybody. You can't walk or live in fear about these kind of things. Just be conscious, consciously aware that these type of things can happen."

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