Amrit Marajh, 28, has been charged with harassment as a hate crime after allegedly punching a 24-year-old Orthodox Jewish man. It's the latest in a series of assaults known collectively as part of the "knockout game" trend that seems to be happening across the nation.
Marajh was set free on $750 bond and maintains that he did not touch the young man. Three other men were arrested in connection with this particular assault but released; Marajh was the only one charged with a crime.
"He makes a statement that he was punched in the side of the face," New York Police Department Commissioner Ray Kelly told ABC News of the victim, whose name has not been released. "He also makes a statement that just prior to it they were talking about the 'Knockout Game.'"
According to police, there have been at least eight attacks in the past few weeks, particularly in areas of Brooklyn where Jewish people tend to live. Just two weeks ago, a 78-year-old Jewish woman was punched in the face as part of the game. Authorities are taking the threats seriously, and Republican Assemblyman Jim Tedisco has proposed a bill that would classify the "Knockout Game" as a gang assault, meaning that any youths who participated would be tried as adults and face up to 25 years in prison.
"These twisted and cowardly thugs are preying on innocent bystanders and they don't care if the victims are young, old, a man or woman. Life isn't a video game. These are real people whose lives are not only being put in jeopardy but in many cases destroyed," Tedisco told the Associated Press.
"If this is a pattern, we want to know," Kelly told the New York Daily News on Sunday. "We have been talking to our confidential informants. We want to know what the scuttlebutt on the street is. Are they hearing about (knockout)? They are. People are talking about it. The question for us is how much it's actually happening. If there is one message we want to get out, it's this: If something like this happens, please tell us right away."