Ready to play the Knockout Game?
The St. Louis version is the most popular, so let’s start there: Begin with a bunch of black people. Anywhere from five to 50.
Find a white person, but an Asian will do. Alone is important. Older is better. Weak and defenseless even more so.
Without warning, punch that person in the face as hard as you can. You win if you score a Knockout.
If not, keep punching until your arms and legs get too tired to continue. Or the person dies.
You can play anywhere, but “vibrant and culturally mixed” South Grand District is probably best. That is where the victims are: Asians, “gay” people, artists, yuppies – people who won’t fight back.
The league does not have official standings. Not yet. But over the last two years, the number of attacks has ranged from 20, if you believe the police, to 100, if you believe people actually playing and watching the game.
And that is just in St. Louis.
It is so popular even the St. Louis mayor, Francis Slay, played. Slay and his bodyguard had just left a Pink Floyd tribute show and were riding by a city library in October 2011 when they saw a man in the gutter, unconscious.
That man was 51-year-old Matt Quain, who had been on his way home from a local grocery story, ready to celebrate a Cardinals’ victory in the World Series. The Post-Dispatch reports some of the details:
“Eighteen teenagers jumped on him and started hitting him with bricks for no apparent reason,” said Charlie Quain, the victim’s nephew. Quain’s uncle was walking home with a neighbor when he was attacked in front of a public library. Nothing was taken from him, and he was able to escape before things escalated.
The game has caused deaths in the past.
“You can just see the lines and the bruising where the edge of the bricks were hitting him,” Quain said. “His jaw is wired shut. It has to be for at least six weeks.”
Quain was left in a neck brace, with a broken jaw, black eye and stitches in his face.
The mayor saw the attackers “saunter” away.
Soon, seven black people were in custody.
A few days after the assault, Quain’s family pleaded for an end to the “sickening attacks.”
Police held a meeting at the school where most of the suspects attended. Please stop the Knockout Game, they begged.
Two weeks later, a 54-year old man was another victim. Two of the people arrested were at the meeting.
The Quain trial was supposed to begin in January. Instead, the district attorney dropped charges, because a 13-year-old witness did not show up for the trial.
Slay said it was a case of witness tampering.
“My strong guess is that she was intimidated, threatened not to testify which is why she did not show up,” Slay said to the Post Dispatch. “The case fell apart and the second-degree assault charges were dropped, followed by cheers and high-fives among the defendants.”
There was also plenty of jubilation on Facebook, the Post-Dispatch reported, including a dispatch from a black person known as the Knockout King because he was universally acclaimed to be the master of this athletic art form: “FREE ALL MY TKO GUYS.”
TKO is a boxing term for Technical Knock Out and is also a popular graffiti tag in that neighborhood.
Despite repeated pleas for peace from police, newspapers and the Quain family, a few days after the charges were dropped, the alleged assailants were back. And they were after Quain. Again.
KMOV TV talked to the shaken Quain: “I looked up and I was flinching because he had his fists up in the air,” Quain said.
Quain then pulled out a can of pepper spray and the accused attackers fled the scene.
Despite the otherwise excellent coverage, at no time did the Post-Dispatch ever include a description of the attackers that included their race. The paper even disabled the comments section of news stories associated with this and other Knockout attacks because readers were demanding to know why.
“Regarding the local newspaper shutting down the comments section on stories related to The Knockout Game, you should note it is actually now much worse than that,” said Deb, a St. Louis resident. “Because citizens were so angry at purposeful non-reporting and under-reporting of many stories here in St. Louis, they would take to the Comments Section of high profile crime stories in the online edition of our local paper to discuss and share what they know that the local paper was not reporting.
“The Post-Dispatch got tired of being made to look bad and incompetent when the Comments Section had more useful and factual information than the original newspaper article did.”
Not discussing the race of the assailants is one of the most cherished rules of the Knockout Game.
Or to paraphrase the popular movie: First rule of the Knockout Game: Don’t talk about the race of those involved in the Knockout Game.
The Quain case was the most visible but not the most deadly. That happened in April 2011, when two elderly Vietnamese immigrants were attacked and one was killed.
“It is because of a game called Knockout. Someone punched him in the head for sport and entertainment. The goal is to knockout someone with one punch. If you do that, you win,” reported KMOV.
Exex Murphy won this game. He was charged with murder. On his Facebook page, he reported:
“I just got arrested and detained. Good thing they didn’t read my rights.”
More cryptically, three days after the killing:
“People love tu play wit people freedom. But not dsz one so com n play because I will win n yo freedom will b done to.”
His Facebook page is still open and available to the public. In one picture, his girlfriend is wearing a shirt that says “Obama is my homeboy.”
Asian immigrants were victims of at least four other similar attacks, though some were not reported to police.
The list lengthens. Openly gay Matthew McLeod was on his way to his job as a hair dresser when six black people called him “faggot” before the Knockout Game began.
At least two bicyclists were also attacked in 2011.
Earlier this year, the attacks started again. In May, a 30-year-old man who is too scared to allow police to release his name, was beaten by a group of up to a dozen black people.
Police say it appears to be another example of the Knockout Game. One man was arrested, the others at large.
In March of this year, an unconscious Pete Kruchowski was found in the early morning in the middle of the street, near his bike, which showed little sign of damage.
Kruchowski suffered skull fractures, broken bones, a punctured lung, and bruises.
At first, some said Kruchowski was the latest victim of the Knockout Game. He was found in the same area as Quain. Later, police said it was just a bike accident.
Kruchowski suffered brain injuries and cannot remember.
Umar Lee is a St. Louis writer, activist and boxing coach. In his video blog and in an interview, he says police ignore many Knockout Game assaults because they make the city look bad.
Almost all of the perpetrators are black and the victims are not, he says. But the boxing coach knows why:
Most of the people who get beat up are vegans, gays, artists, non-violent types,” he said. “Many are kids from the suburbs or recent immigrants. People who are not prepared to defend themselves. There are white neighborhoods – blue collar, middle class neighborhoods – where these folks will not go because they know that people there are willing to defend themselves.
On Monday April 23rd, 2012, an elderly lady was attacked by a group of teenagers at the bus stop on Grand and Page. There has been no media coverage of this event. I have met several victims and the story is always the same going back to 2005.
St. Louis police and others say the attacks have been happening in waves since 2006. In 2009, in Columbia, Mo., security video shows a group of nine black people stalking a man into a parking garage.
They hit him, knock him down, kick him, then run away. Soon, however, they return, picked him up, hit him some more and kick him again.
In St. Louis, police say there have been about 20 Knockout Game episodes in the last two years.
According to people who post on St. Louis news sites where comments about the Knockout Game are permitted, that is a low estimate.
A very low estimate, says the Riverfront Times News.
The RFT found one of the game players who said the number of victims was more than 20:
“Based on our intelligence, we believe it’s an isolated group of maybe five to nine kids,” said Police Chief Daniel Isom.
Local teens say it’s far more popular than that.
“I’d say maybe ten to fifteen percent of kids play Knockout King,” Aaron Davis, who’s eighteen and lives in south city, adding that he never took part. “It’s not a whole school, but it’s a nice percentage.”
Some former participants maintain Davis’ estimate is too low.
“Everybody plays,” says eighteen-year-old Brandon Demond, a former participant who provided only his first and middle names for publication.
“It’s a game for groups of teens to see who can hit a person the hardest,” explains Brandon, who’s standing with a group of friends on Grand Boulevard as a police officer listens nearby. “It’s a bunch of stupid … little dudes in a group, like we are now. See this dude walkin’ up behind me?” – Brandon gestures to a longhaired man walking toward him on the sidewalk – “we could just knock him out right now.”
St. Louis seems to be the most popular place for the game, but it is not the only place. Attorney and writer John Bennett says the game is also played in Illinois, Massachusetts and New Jersey.
In Chicago, two men were recently charged with murder after playing the Knockout Game while a third man filmed it and posted it on Facebook.
In May of this year, a gang of 15 to 20 black people attacked and beat three people in a downtown St. Louis park.
Some say that was not the Knockout Game but just a violent black mob that occasionally swoops into downtown – in numbers as large as 1,000 – and beats, steals and destroys property there much as other violent mobs have done hundreds of times in the last two years in more than 60 cities.
St. Louis has a lot of those as well, especially in an area known as The Delmar Loop.
Many are on video.
It’s another example of racial violence the local media is curiously reluctant to report on.
An editorial from the Post-Dispatch gives a clue as to why:
Reporter Denise Hollinshed of the Post-Dispatch talked to some kids outside of Roosevelt High School, one of whom acknowledged that he’d taken part in the “knockout king” game.
“Knockout king is a thrill,” the kid told her. “It makes you want to keep doing it every day.”
Sure, the kid said, he knew he could hurt somebody. But he added, “You don’t know them, so why care about hurting them?”
That’s a chilling statement. It reflects an almost sociopathic lack of empathy.
On the other hand, the more you think about it, it perfectly captures today’s zeitgeist, the spirit of the times.
Why not foreclose on homes without giving the homeowners a chance to work out their mortgages? Why not let 50 million people go without health insurance? Why not tilt the table so all the money runs down to one end? You don’t know them, so why care about hurting them?
It’s not like you punched them in the head.
And the game goes on.