COLUMBIA, SC — Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott told a University of South Carolina honors class that members of the Bloods, a nationally recognized gang, have played a violent game called “knockout” in Five Points.
The comments, which were published Thursday morning in the university’s student newspaper, The Daily Gamecock, were unusual for a couple of reasons. First, Lott has always refused to name the gang operating in Five Points, saying he did not want to give it publicity or credit. Second, it was the first report of the violent game, called “knockout,” being played in the Midlands.
Lott tried Thursday to step back from identifying the gang and told The State newspaper he would not comment further on what he told the class about the gang’s identity.
As for the knockout game, Lott said he had gotten his information “from the streets,” and “from gang members talking about it.” He did not know the number of incidents or when they had taken place.
In knock out, players roam the streets in search of lone people who appear vulnerable. A player then tries to knock a victim unconscious in one punch. The game has earned national headlines because of its callous, violent intent, demonstrated in videos posted online.
But the Columbia Police Department has not received reports of the game being played anywhere in the city, including Five Points, said Jennifer Timmons, the department’s spokeswoman. Timmons said she spoke to the department’s gang investigators, crime analysis unit and commanders who oversee Five Points on Thursday morning to double check whether there were reports of it.
Timmons said she could not absolutely say it had never happened because it’s possible that victims don’t report crimes.
“We don’t want to cause panic,” she said. “We’ve had enough problems in Five Points without having misinformation being spread.”
If the department confirms that the game is being played, the public will know about it, Timmons said.
“That’s something we would shout from the rooftops because, number one, we would want to get it off the streets and, second, to let the public know it had been happening here so they can be aware and protect themselves,” she said.
Lott said he told students about the gang and the knockout game in the context of Five Points becoming more safe.
Reach Phillips at (803) 771-8307.