Brazen ‘knockout game’ back in NYC, expert warns

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The “knockout game” was down – but clearly not out.

Four recent unprovoked sucker-punch attacks across New York City — the latest involving a 74-year-old woman — have signaled the return of the insidious “game,” a sick street challenge in which thugs attempt to knock an unsuspecting innocent unconscious with a single blow, a law enforcement expert told The Post.

“Knockout games are back. The attack on New Yorkers is very real. We need to keep our heads up,” said Michael Alcazar, a retired NYPD detective and adjunct professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

“It’s not just the mentally ill who commit these attacks. There are individuals who are angry, bored and brutal, who know they will not be prosecuted.”

Bui Van Phu randomly attacked a 52-year-old man in Manhattan.
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New York Post cover for Friday, August 19, 2022.
New York Post cover for Friday, August 19, 2022.
Jesus Cortes
Jesus Cortes was allegedly attacked by Bui Van Phu on August 12.
Brigitte Stelzer/copyphoto

At least a dozen of the social media-driven attacks — done for online attention, kicking or gang initiation — plagued the city in 2013.

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While the NYPD said it doesn’t specifically track such “knockout”-type attacks, there have been more than 20 “sucker-punch” incidents this year, media reports have revealed. Amongst them:

Man punches another person from behind.
Another attack took place on August 20 at the Kings Plaza Mall.
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A 73-year-old man in Brooklyn was blinded in one eye by a suction cup.
Donna Howell

“He just punched me in the face, which I luckily avoided. He hit me four or five times,” said Medina Vargas.

Medina Vargas said he was also struck in the head from behind on July 7 while riding the Fourth Avenue subway line with his girlfriend in Brooklyn. In that incident, he lost consciousness for “four to five seconds.”

“I’m afraid to live in New York,” he confided to me.

On Wednesday, a 74-year-old woman was punched in the face in an unprovoked attack in broad daylight in Midtown. The senior was out of hospital and “feeling fine,” the victim’s niece, Josephine Abragan, told The Post on Saturday.

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Gayman Hillaire, 73, was blinded in January 2020 in Brooklyn by a punch to his left eye, police said. Hillaire was walking near Kingston Avenue and Saint John’s Place in Crown Heights when he was smacked in the face by a stranger just after 11 a.m. “I’m fine,” Hillaire told The Post on Friday before declining further comment.

Whether the attacks are carried out by the mentally ill or criminals with bad intentions, the state’s controversial reform laws encourage attackers, law enforcement officials said.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s a game or not. It’s just the way the streets are now,” said an experienced Brooklyn police officer. “Perps think they can get away with anything, and they’re usually right. We arrest them and they go right back out.”

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Former NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton — who served the city from 1994 to 1996 and again from 2014 to 2016 — said the incidents are not limited to the Big Apple, but are happening “across the country.”

Miller Giovanni Medina
Miller Giovanni Medina Vargas, 34, was shot in the face in Central Park.

He blamed “the current criminal justice” climate.

“If the person is mentally ill, they go in for observation and let them out, and if they’re not mentally ill, they let them out even faster,” Bratton complained. “There is no consistent punishment or consistent treatment for the people who engage in this activity.

“What worries me is the copycat problem. People see it, see that nothing is happening to the people who do it, and may be tempted to do it.”

Additional reporting by Joe Marino and Georgett Roberts

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