Videos of groups of young men roaming the streets looking for random victims that they can knockout with one punch have been showing up online, but police here in the city say a line of similar incidents in one part of Brooklyn may just be a coincidence. NY1's Steve Kastenbaum filed the following report.
A 24-year-old man was walking home early Friday morning when he says he was surrounded by a group of young men at a corner on the edge of Borough Park. In a recorded interview posted on YouTube, he claims one of the men hit him once in the face with a closed fist.
"As I was able to cringe and walk away from them they called after me, 'Come back, I can do this. I will knock you out,'" the man said.
The man accused claims he never touched the victim. Amrit Maragh, 28, was charged with misdemeanor assault, menacing and harassment.
According to police, eight people have been punched or hit for no apparent reason while walking down city streets in recent weeks. Most of the victims were Orthodox Jews and five of the assaults took place in Crown Heights. The youngest victim was a 12-year-old boy, the oldest was a 78-year-old woman. Each of the victims was hit once in the face or head.
"People are on guard, they're looking behind them to see who is around them," said Moshe Finer, a Borough Park resident.
Some are now questioning whether or not this an actual trend. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly raised the possibility that it's just an urban legend; that these are just a series of random attacks with similar circumstances.
Either way, the word is out in some communities to stay alert while walking around, especially at night.
"I think for the time being it's just like isolated incidents. But I think when more people start watching it online you might have the copycats," said one Crown Heights resident.
"I think giving it too much attention is basically teaching, like, basically having other teenagers aware of the game. It's basically like advertising the game," said another Crown Heights resident.
Whether or not there is some sort of trend police are not taking any chances. Officers are highly visible and many people say if they see a group of young men walking in their direction they're more likely to cross to the other side of the street.