The Post-Dispatch details the challenges that St. Louis police encountered in bringing justice after a series of vicious knockout assaults in 2011 in St. Louis. Groups of teens were cold-cocking older pedestrians at random. One was dead, several injured. Residents were alarmed, police baffled. And the worst was yet to come: On Oct. 21, Matt Quain, 52, a dishwasher, was severely beaten in a knockout assault. The mayor helped rescue him. Seven middle schoolers, some as young as 12, were arrested. Then, at a juvenile court hearing in January, the main witness, a 13-year-old classmate of the defendants, failed to show up. The case was tossed out.
The kids celebrated. Others howled. The case seemed to captivate the city with a series of difficult questions: Why was this happening? How would it stop? Was witness intimidation a factor? The story of how police cracked the case, only to see it fall apart, shows the unusual challenges posed by knockout assaults, as well as the communitywide frustrations. The crimes were rare, but terrorizing. These were not muggings. Something else was at play here. It was a matter of finding out what, even if the answers were unsettling.