Teens' 'knock-out' game targets strangers Four Hoboken High students arrested in connection with assault; more to come
by Michael D. Mullins
Feb 13, 2007 | 5460 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Hoboken Police detectives Michael DePalma and William Vera walked into Hoboken High School Monday morning to apprehend two students who were suspected of being involved in a Jan. 12 beating of a Hoboken resident.

The arrests came after two other juveniles were arrested in connection with the same incident a few days earlier, which police believe also involved an attempted robbery.

All four of those arrested were Hoboken High students, ranging from 15 to 17 years of age.

According to sources within the Police Department, the incident may have been related to a violent game known to groups of teens in other parts of Hudson County, in which one individual yells "knock-out," and another attempts to knock out an unsuspecting individual nearby.

This is the first time the game has been reported in Hoboken, police said, although similar acts of violence have appeared in municipalities such as Jersey City and Bayonne.

"We're taking a zero-tolerance approach to this or any act of violence perpetrated by individuals no matter what they're age," said Sgt. Michael Costello last week, who added that three more arrests were expected in connection with the incident. Costello couldn't release more information at this time due to the fact that it was an ongoing investigation.

Costello attributed the four arrests to "Good old-fashioned police work."

At least three of the four juveniles arrested have been remanded to the Hudson County Juvenile Detention Center in Secaucus, where they will remain until making an appearance in family court.

Group assault

The incident allegedly occurred on Friday, Jan. 12 at approximately 9:20 p.m., when a Hoboken couple in their thirties were approached by a group of teens in the area of Ninth and Madison Streets, on the west side of town. One of the youths allegedly reached out and attempted to grab the woman's purse, at which point her male companion stepped in and prevented the alleged theft.

Moments later, a group of approximately seven to eight teens surrounded the man, who allegedly was punched from behind by one attacker, knocking the victim to the ground. Several teens allegedly began punching and kicking him as the female, who had been the original victim, called police.

It is not clear how long the alleged beating lasted. Police also said the assailants allegedly taunted the victim as they assaulted him.

Before police were able to arrive at the scene, the juveniles had dispersed.

One of the first officers to arrive on the scene was Sgt. Christopher LaBruno, who was off-duty at the time and was able to recognize at least one of the alleged attackers before they scattered. Vera and DePalma also arrived at the scene but were unable to locate any of the assailants.

The victim was not seriously injured and after being treated at the scene by the Hoboken Volunteer Ambulance Corps, declined to be taken to St. Mary Hospital.

On Wednesday Jan. 24, a 15-year-old, who was at police headquarters for another charge, was identified by officers in the precinct due to information provided by LaBruno. The juvenile was charged with attempted robbery and sent to the Hudson County Juvenile Detention Center.

On Saturday Jan. 27, another 15-year-old was arrested by police at his home in the Hoboken Housing Authority at approximately 4:30 p.m. in connection with the alleged assault/robbery attempt. In addition to the four teens who have been arrested thus far, police expect to make three other arrests in connection with the crime.

School superintendent reacts

Hoboken's director of health and human services, Carmelo Garcia, who is also on the Board of Education, was extremely disappointed after hearing the news.

"It was upsetting to hear that our students would think to commit an act of violence like this," said Garcia. "With all the outlets we have available for these teens, with all the programs and counseling we have for them, there's no excuse that there's nothing to do."

Garcia said that none of the students in question had been signed up in any of the programs he had put together to deter such actions. It is not yet clear whether the accused teens were members of the school's sports teams.

The district's superintendent, Patrick Gagliardi, echoed Garcia's sentiment with regards to the selection of programs offered to students both during and after school hours.

Gagliardi said that if the charges turn out to be true, "It's unfortunate these kids have to use violence like this when there are so many things we have going on at the school."

There are good ones

In addition to the existing counseling programs, some of which include psychologists, the district has recently implemented a new program in which former Hoboken High School athletes who went on to graduate from prestigious colleges return to speak with students to deter such behavior. Many of the former athletes grew up in the Hoboken Housing Authority projects, where a large portion of the current student population lives.

In regard to the four students who were arrested, Gagliardi said that each would be disciplined on an individual basis depending on their involvement.

But he said that if they are found to be a threat to other students, they will never again see the inside of a Hoboken High classroom.

"If you can't live in society under rules, you can't remain in our school system," said Gagliardi. "It is a privilege to be in our school and we have a right to exclude them if they are disruptive or we deem them to be dangerous to our student population."

Gagliardi added that if any student exhibits violent behavior, whether they are charged with a crime or not, they will be provided an education through home instruction or at an outside education center, which is run by the state or county for children who can't function in a regular school setting.

Michael Mullins can be reached at mmullins@hudsonreporter.com.
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