Police following leads in Pokemon player punch case


Police are following leads in the case of a Pokemon Go player who they say was punched by a man, knocking him unconscious, in the Peace Center plaza in downtown Greenville last week.

Detectives received some tips after releasing a surveillance video photo of the suspect who was seen leaving the scene with a group of others, said Greenville Police spokesman Gilberto Franco.

With the punch, Greenville joined a growing list of cities where players of the popular smartphone game have been injured or become victims of crimes, as well as bigger South Carolina cities dealing with public safety downtown and in entertainment districts.

But Greenville Mayor Knox White said despite the incident, downtown Greenville is one of the safest places to be in the city. He said downtown attracts tens, and sometimes hundreds, of thousands of people at a time with very few incidents.

“Public safety is our number one priority,” he said. “People feel safe downtown. This incident doesn’t reflect the way things are. Downtown is safe. We’re not going to tolerate that behavior.”

Greenville Police Chief Ken Miller said the police department has dedicated patrols in downtown and city garages, and the department has a task force that is deployed in different parts of downtown depending on the day and time of the week and events being held. The city is also upgrading its surveillance network downtown with high-definition and low-light cameras that can zoom to show a face or a license plate and track movement, Miller said.

The upgrade is part of the city’s 2013 plan to increase security downtown after a string of robberies downtown and near the Greenville Health System Swamp Rabbit Trail caused some to question downtown safety.

Miller said the Pokemon Go player was on the steps of the plaza at South Main and West Broad streets about 10:30 p.m. Wednesday, when a man walked up to him and said, “What’d you say to me?”

After the Pokemon Go player answered, “I didn’t say anything to you,” the suspect, a black male, punched him in the side of the head. The player, a 29-year-old Simpsonville man, fell and hit his head on the steps, knocking him unconscious, Miller said.

Police have classified the Wednesday night incident as attempted murder because of the extent of the Pokemon Go player’s injury.

As the Pokemon Go phenomenon has spread across the country, law enforcement and emergency medical services agencies have reported driving accidents, pedestrian injuries, trespassing and robberies and other crimes connected to the game.

Greenville isn’t the only big South Carolina city dealing with public safety downtown and in entertainment districts.

Charleston passed a one-year moratorium on new bars in its entertainment district that could stay open past midnight in 2014 after the death of a man who was sucker-punched on King Street and complaints from neighborhood residents about noise, parking and safety problems.

In Columbia, safety in Five Points, a popular late-night student hangout, was questioned after Martha Childress, then an 18-year-old freshman at the University of South Carolina, was paralyzed after being struck by a stray bullet while waiting for a taxi.

Anybody with information about the incident is asked to call the Greenville Police Department at 271-5333 or Crime Stoppers at 23-CRIME.



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