Richmond Heights, MO (KSDK)- It's a game that could be deadly. The "Knock Out Game" targets innocent people. Just this week, a man was attacked near the Galleria Mall in Richmond Heights. He says the suspects confessed to police it was all part of that game.
"I love what I do. I have a passion for hair. Hairdressing is my thing. I am not going to let anybody take me down," said 22-year-old Matthew McLeod of Crestwood.
McLeod is a hairstylist at the Regis Salon in the Galleria mall. Saturday was his first day back after he was attacked on Thursday around 2:30 p.m. by a group of five teenagers on his way to work.
"Two of them ambushed me. One in front and one in back and they knocked me out. They knocked me down," said McLeod. "I was utterly shocked that it happened to me. In my opinion I was a victim of a hate crime," McLeod continued.
McLeod says he thinks he was targeted because he is gay. He says the teens shouted a gay slur at him and punched him twice in the face. Now he has a swollen cheek, a black eye, and a broken nose.
McLeod says he was attacked a few feet away from the Richmond Heights Metrolink station. He says many witnesses were around and that's what helped police catch the suspects quickly.
"I was utterly shocked that this would happen in the daylight because it's a great area where I work in. It's a good area, there are a lot of people around, there is a security guard at the Metro so I was just shocked that they thought that this would be a perfect time to knock someone out," said McLeod.
All five teens were arrested and turned over to juvenile authorities.
"Police told me that it was a game called the 'Knock Out Kings' and they targeted me because I looked weak and feminine. It is a sick game. I mean it is a stupid game, it's a sick game. Games are supposed to be fun. This is not fun at all. It's not fun to get knocked out. It is not fun to get your nose fractured," said McLeod.
The "Knock Out Game" has already claimed the life of one St. Louis man. Just two months ago 72-year-old Hoang Nguyen, a Vietnamese immigrant, died from a head injury after he was beaten and fell to the ground in his south St. Louis neighborhood.
McLeod realizes his outcome could have been worse.
"I'm lucky and I'm thankful and it's great to be alive," said McLeod.
McLeod hopes this case is treated as a hate crime. Police are still investigating.