A Texas man has been charged with a federal hate crime in connection with an assault of a 79-year-old black man that prosecutors allege was part of the "knockout game."
The knockout game, which has been known by a variety of names since 1992, is based on a person attacking another person, trying to knock the victim out with a single blow and usually recording the attack. Many urban experts doubt such attacks are widespread, but the recent wave of extensive publicity has moved the game out of the shadows. Many also believe the publicity sparks copycat crimes.
Assaults on random strangers simply to knock them out have been reported over the years in St. Louis, New Jersey, New York, Washington, D.C., and Chicago, among other areas. An assault attributed to the knockout game reportedly killed a Vietnamese immigrant in 2011 in St. Louis. At least one legislator in Illinois has called for tougher penalties.
In the current case, Conrad Alvin Barrett, 27, has been charged with a federal hate crime, the U.S. Justice Department announced on Thursday. The complaint alleges that Barrett, of Katy, Texas, violated the federal Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act when he allegedly attacked the elderly man on Nov. 24.
Prosecutors allege that Barrett recorded himself on his cellphone attacking the man and showed the video to others. The complaint says Barrett made several videos, one in which he identifies himself and another in which he makes a racial slur. In addition, Barrett had been working up to playing the knockout game for approximately a week.
According to the complaint, Barrett in the video says that "the plan is to see if I were to hit a black person, would this be nationally televised?"
"Suspected crimes of this nature will simply not be tolerated," U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson of the Southern District of Texas said in a prepared statement. "Evidence of hate crimes will be vigorously investigated and prosecuted with the assistance of all our partners to the fullest extent of the law."
Barrett allegedly hit the man with enough force that he immediately fell to the ground. Barrett then laughed and said "knockout," as he ran to his vehicle and fled, according to allegations.
The victim sustained two jaw fractures and was hospitalized for several days as a result of the attack, according to the Justice Department.
"It is unimaginable in this day and age that one could be drawn to violently attack another based on the color of their skin," said the FBI's Stephen L. Morris, special agent in charge of the Houston division. "We remind all citizens that we are protected under the law from such racially motivated attacks, and encourage everyone to report such crimes to the FBI."
If convicted, Barrett faces a statutory maximum of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.