Senate OKs bill to combat knockout-game attacks

Staff writerFebruary 18, 2014 

State lawmakers want to make sure the so-called knockout game doesn’t come to Washington.

The state Senate passed a bill Tuesday that would make it a felony for anyone to randomly attack a person in public who they have never met or spoken to.

The legislation is inspired by widespread news stories last year of a purported phenomenon dubbed the knockout game, in which teenagers reportedly approach individuals at random and attempt to knock them out with one punch.

Right now, such attacks can be classified as fourth-degree assaults, which carry a gross misdemeanor charge. Senate Bill 6011 would ensure such attacks merit a charge of third-degree assault, which is a class C felony with a standard sentence of one to 3 months in prison.

State Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, said the goal of the bill is to “be a deterrent” to anyone who might think about participating in a random punching game.

“What we’re trying to do is get ahead of the curve here and indicate that we don’t want to see this phenomenon grow into our state,” said Padden, who said there is “some indication” that knockout games might have occurred in Washington.

Spokane County Sheriff's deputies have said an unprovoked attack on a man outside a Spokane Valley convenience store in November resembled knockout reports elsewhere. No charges have been filed in that case.

Sen. Jeannie Darneille, D-Tacoma, said she said she thinks there needs to be a higher penalty for random attacks that follow the knockout-game pattern because the victims are usually people who are elderly or frail.

“They don’t randomly pick somebody who looks like a halfback,” Darneille said, adding that many examples of such attacks have been posted on YouTube.

The bill passed the Senate 38-9 Tuesday.

Sen. Adam Kline, D-Seattle, questioned how big of a problem the knockout game really is. Police officials in several cities where such attacks have been reported told the New York Times last year that they might be nothing more than the sort of random assaults that have always occurred.

Kline voted against the bill, saying he believes knockout-game type attacks already are covered adequately under state law.

“Fads come and go, our law doesn’t,” Kline said. “I suggest we don’t change our law to accommodate this particular type of fad.”

The legislation now heads to the state House for consideration.

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