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Sunday, December 1, 2013

Dajour Washington Sucker-Punched A Teacher

       A year ago, the crime involving black youths who try to knockout white strangers they encounter on the street with a single punch didn't have a name because the authorities were unaware of the motive behind these senseless attacks. Once it became known that the perpetrators of these assaults referred to the crime as the "knockout game," the offense became a national media story. A little more than a year ago, an incident that would now be classified as a knockout attack, drew local media attention because the offense didn't make any sense. It was not, however, a national story. That has changed.

      James Addlespurger, a 50-year-old English teacher at the School For The Creative and Performing Arts (grades 6-12), while walking in downtown Pittsburgh near his school at 3:30 in the afternoon of October 4, 2012, approached six teenage boys who were coming toward him. One of the black youngsters, without warning or provocation, punched the white teacher in the face, then casually walked off with his friends. Mr. Addlespurger fell to the pavement and was later treated for his injuries at a nearby hospital. The gratuitous assault was caught on tape by a city surveillance camera. The teacher had no idea who had punched him, or why.

     Five days after the sucker-punch, Pittsburgh police officers arrested 15-year-old Dajour Washington. The youth attended the Student Achievement Center in the Homewood section of the city. When asked why he had attacked a total stranger, Washington explained that he was an "angry person" who was having a "bad day." Charged with simple assault, Washington was placed into a juvenile detention center. (Under Pennsylvania law, minors charged with misdemeanor crimes cannot be charged as adults.)

     Dajour Washington's grandmother, the woman who helped raise him, told a reporter with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that the boy was "very intelligent but not street-wise." She characterized Dajour as a follower who, easily influenced by others, would commit inappropriate acts out of a need to fit in. (Isn't this always the case? Has there ever been a parent who says, "I've got a rotten kid who is a bad influence on his friends?") 

     Besides the simple assault charge, Dajour faced a probation violation revocation which revealed this was not the first time he had been in trouble with the law. Knowing what we know now about these random street assaults, the Pittsburgh school teacher had been the victim of the knockout game. This was, at its core, a recreational race crime. 

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