By Joe Piasecki
The victim of an assault on Third Street Promenade and a Hollywood actress who came to the aid of an elderly man punched by a masked assailant in Venice have taken to the Internet with claims the attacks were motivated by “the knockout game” — a term describing episodes of random violence intended to render unsuspecting victims unconscious with a single punch.
Police aren’t so certain, however, saying they have no evidence that knockout game attacks have occurred in Westside neighborhoods.
On Jan. 2, actress Rose McGowan took to Twitter writing that she witnessed a seemingly random assault shortly after 6 p.m. near Ocean Front Walk. According to McGowan’s Twitter feed — followed by more than 450,000 users — a masked man on a skateboard struck the victim on the head and fled the scene as she gave chase.
“I just witnessed a 65-year-old man get punched by an evil guy playing that goddamn knockout game. #criminal #heartbroken #whattheF?!” typed McGowan, who starred in the television series “Charmed” and the films “Scream” and “Grindhouse.”
“Bleeding from the ear. Called an ambulance for him. His little dog tried to protect,” reads another tweet.
Police are investigating but have not been able to locate the victim, leaving investigators unable to determine what motivated the attack, Sgt. S. Kinchla of the LAPD’s Pacific Division said.
The division has no records of any knockout game attacks in the area, he said.
“We are taking the incident very seriously,” Kinchla said, asking anyone with information to call police at (310) 482-6313. “If this is going on we want to know about it and put a stop to it, because it’s pretty serious. There are reports this [phenomenon] has happened in other cities, and it’s something we don’t want happening here.”
Earlier this week, a 45-year-old Los Angeles resident claimed in a press release and an indiegogo.com appeal for help paying medical bills that he was the victim of a Dec. 11 knockout game attack on Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade.
Keith Chase Watson said he and a friend were out walking near Santa Monica Boulevard at about 10 p.m. when a man who appeared to be in his early 20s yelled and then lunged at him.
Watson said he walked away from the encounter but moments later was struck in the face from behind — the blow breaking his nose and causing small fractures around his right eye, sending him to a local hospital and leaving him with chronic headaches and a twitchy eye.
Watson complained that Santa Monica police officers responded but failed to arrest his assailant even as the man, who carried an iPad, yelled at Watson from across the street.
His attacker and another man “were taunting me, high-fiving each other,” Watson said. “My friend pointed him out to police. He was yelling obscenities.”
Santa Monica police refute aspects of Watson’s account and his assertion that the assault was a knockout game-related sneak attack.
“Words were exchanged” between the two men prior to the attack and the suspect fled before police arrived, SMPD Sgt. Jay Moroso said.
According to a police report that included statements by Watson and a witness, the attacker “seemed to antagonize [Watson], and the victim basically said ‘What’s your problem?’ or words to that effect,” Moroso said. “It was when the victim was walking away that the assailant came up from behind and punched him. The assailant ran across the street until, according to a witness, the suspect noticed police coming and that’s when he fled.”
Moroso also said that an officer on patrol arrested a suspect three hours later and held him on an unrelated warrant, but Watson hasn’t answered police requests to identify his attacker in a photo lineup.
Watson said he first heard of the arrest on Tuesday.
“I don’t want to give the police a hard time. They’re not the bad guy,” Watson said, but believes footage from nearby surveillance cameras may verify his story. “I just want to let people in Santa Monica know to be careful.”
Moroso said police are reviewing video footage.
As for any past knockout game-style attacks, “nobody’s heard of it happening here,” he said.