A 72-year-old Jewish woman was punched in the back of the head yesterday afternoon while walking in East New York, and the NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force is investigating whether the incident is another in a series of racially-motivated assaults on Jewish victims—and/or another "knockout game" attack. Mira Harpazi was walking to a pharmacy around noon near the intersection of Vandalia Avenue and Pennsylvania Avenue when the suspect, described by police as a black man in his early 20s, punched her in the back of the head.
Harpazi fell to the ground, and her assailant ran off without robbing her. She was taken to Brookdale Hospital with minor injuries, and was treated and released yesterday. An NYPD spokesman confirmed this morning that the department's Hate Crimes unit is investigating.
The broad-daylight assault, which seemingly occurred without warning or property theft, fits the pattern of other attacks on predominantly Jewish victims in Brooklyn. At a press conference yesterday, NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly said there have been seven such attacks—in which a victim is beaten over the head by one or more assailants—in Crown Heights, as well as one in Borough Park. But police are reluctant to designate which of the attacks are part of the "knockout game," in which one member of a group tries to sucker-punch a passer-by without warning.
This weekend, a 28-year-old man was charged with a hate crime in connection to a possible "knockout" attack on a Jewish man in Borough Park. Shmuel Perl was walking home from work early Friday morning in Borough Park when he was surrounded by a group of attackers and punched in the face. "As I'm walking on the sidewalk, the group surrounded me and one of them with a closed fist hit in me the face," Perl, who managed to escape, told PIX 11. "They called after me, 'Come back I can do this. I can knock you out.'"