CROWN HEIGHTS — Local leaders announced a cash reward Monday for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of the culprits in a spate of recent attacks in Brooklyn's Jewish communities that may be part of a violent nationwide street game called "Knockout."
"The reason we’re giving out the $1,500 is so that our residents can walk the streets and go to school without being assaulted," Rabbi Chanina Sperlin, of the Crown Heights Community Council, said.
The reward was announced during a press conference at the Crown Heights Youth Collective, just blocks from where several of the assaults are alleged to have taken place. The NYPD's Hate Crimes Task Force is investigating at least seven incidents in Crown Heights, Midwood and Borough Park as possible anti-Semitic bias attacks, while trying to determine whether they're connected to the so-called game of "Knockout."
“We have seven incidents, most in Crown Heights," Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said at a separate press conference on Monday. "We’re trying to determine as to whether or not it’s this supposed knockout game."
Elected officials have been swift to condemn the incidents, calling for stiff penalties for participation in the so-called game — in which young men sucker punch strangers in an attempt to knock them out, then flee without taking anything from them — and offering their own $1,000 reward for the arrest and successful prosecution of those involved.
At Monday's press conference, some elected officials raised concerns that existing penalties may not be enough to deter additional violence.
Amrit Marajh, 28, was arrested over the weekend in connection with an alleged knockout attack in Midwood, in which he is accused of hitting a 24-year-old Jewish man. While Marajh initially faced hate crime charges, the charges were later dropped down to misdemeanor assault, harassment and menacing, and he was released on $750 bail.
"I don’t believe current penal law statutes really address forms of criminal behavior of this magnitude," said New York State Senator and Brooklyn Borough President-elect Eric Adams.
Brooklyn District Attorney-elect Kenneth Thompson said that he would prosecute attackers to the full extent of the law.
"What I’m committed to do as the next Brooklyn DA is to knock out this 'knockout game,' and let these folks know that if they choose to assault someone like a coward from behind the back of their head, they’re going to knock themselves into prison," Thompson said.
"We want to get out ahead of this, because all indications lead us to believe that this is part of this national phenomenon that’s going on."
With reporting by Trevor Kapp.