"We're trying to determine whether this is a real phenomenon," NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly said at a press conference on Friday. "Yes, something like this can happen, but we would like to have people come forward and give us any information they have."
The "game" in question, which has grown in mythology in recent weeks across various cities on the east coast, consists of sucker-punching passersby and trying to knock them out with one blow. But it is unclear how many of the reported attacks may have simply been the sort of random assaults that police deal with on a regular basis.
The game — if it does indeed exist — frighteningly, seems to target people irrespective of age or gender. Two weeks ago, a 78-year-old woman was punched in the head in Brooklyn.
Most recently, police said, a 24-year-old man wearing a yarmulke was surrounded by four men in Borough Park early on Friday morning before one of them struck him.
"He makes a statement that he was punched in the side of the face," Kelly said. "He also makes a statement that, just prior to it, that they were talking about the Knockout Game."
The commissioner also warned of the possibility that unwarranted hype could lead to copycat crimes.