by: Kathryn Burcham Updated:
MONROE, N.C. - Monroe Police are warning residents of a disturbing trend where Hispanic males are being targeted by roving groups of male teenagers.
Police said in the past two weeks they have received more than a half dozen reports of the men being attacked by groups of predominately black teenagers.
"The Hispanic population is being targeted. We just know that they're alone and they make an easy target for this group of young individuals," said city spokesman Pete Hovanec.
In each incident, police said the suspects distract the victims by asking to see their phones and then attack, often sucker-punching them in a style similar to the social media craze the knockout game.
But police said the trend doesn't appear to be the knockout game because the suspects are not posting video of their attacks online.
"It's a dangerous precedent. These individuals might think it's fun and games, but someone could get seriously hurt or killed," Hovanec said.
In the most recent attack, police said three youth approached 14-year-old Ashael Tinoco on Concord Avenue and asked to see his phone.
"I heard them from behind, then one of them punched me in throat," Tinoco told Eyewitness News.
Tinoco was not seriously injured but police are warning residents to be vigilant and increasing patrols in the affected neighborhoods.