Has the Knockout Game Come to Fishtown?
When lifetime Fishtown resident Ted Wisniewski went out for drinks earlier this week, he was a sturdy, fun-loving 47-year-old union concrete mason. But now he’s stuck in a hospital bed, confused and suffering from a brain injury.
According to his girlfriend, Amy Salzman, Wisniewski was the victim of a random attack just after midnight on September 5th outside of Fishtown bar Saint Lazarus, known to locals as The Saint, which is located at the intersection of Front Street and Girard Avenue.
He went outside alone to smoke a cigarette and moments later was attacked from behind, says Salzman. (Wisniewski was unable to speak to Philly Mag for medical reasons.) The attackers apparently took nothing.
According to Saint owner Brendan Olkus, a female witness ran into the bar and said she had seen three young black males running away from Wisniewski, laughing. It was dark, says Olkus, and they were running away, so she didn’t get a look at their faces.
“We all ran outside and saw him laying there,” says Olkus, who has run the bar for about three years. “It was pretty scary. He was out. His eyes were closed. He wasn’t moving. I didn’t even know if he was alive.”
The attack occurred outside of the range of the security cameras outside The Saint, and Olkus says that none of the other security cameras in the area would have captured the assault.
“These kids were playing the knockout game, that’s exactly what this was,” insists Salzman, referring to a style of random, sudden street attacks that gained notoriety in 2013 — though some have opined that the whole idea of a knockout game trend is a myth.
Wisniewski was released from the intensive care unit on Thursday but remains hospitalized, and Salzman says his prognosis remains unclear.
“They say his skull is fractured from ear to ear, and he has a brain injury,” Salzman tells us. “But the doctors are saying that he’s moving in the right direction.”
The police department’s 26th District is investigating the attack, but Salzman feels that they’re not doing enough.
“That night they were just saying there was really nothing they could do,” claims Salzman, who adds that an investigator finally came out to the hospital to take a statement on Thursday. “They put more effort into who is stealing UPS boxes off of steps. Seriously, that’s what everybody’s talking about in Fishtown right now. UPS boxes. Well, they better hope that the cops find these guys before I do. I’m from here, and so is Ted. We’re real Fishtowners. They better make an arrest before the ’Towners do our thing.”
And it turns out that the attack on Wisniewski might not be an isolated incident.
On August 31st, 71-year-old Fishtown resident Walter Pomroy was attacked from behind near the intersection of Thompson Street and Columbia Avenue. Police have launched an investigation.
According to family members, Pomroy was randomly attacked by a young black male who allegedly hit him on the back of his head with a pipe. His family said that the attack resulted in 90 stitches and a neck fracture, as well as other injuries. Nothing was taken from him.
“This person could have taken his life over nothing at all,” wrote one of Pomroy’s nieces on Facebook.
Pomroy was released from the hospital earlier this week.
And there was reportedly another random attack in the neighborhood last week outside of the El Bar at Front and Master streets. Olkus and Salzman both say they’ve heard accounts of a bar patron being randomly punched outside the bar, but the victim wasn’t really injured, so he didn’t call the police.
“People don’t want to call the cops,” notes Olkus. “In fact, my neighbor at 2nd and Master was getting out of his car last week and some kid just comes up and punches him in the face. ‘What are the cops gonna do?’ he asked me when I told him he should have called them.”
Olkus says that while the neighborhood has been on the upswing in recent years, neighbors still need to be careful.
“People are getting really comfortable in the neighborhood, which is great,” observes Olkus. “But when they’re in front of my bar, they forget they’re still at Front and Girard.”
Follow @VictorFiorillo on Twitter