Real Case Studies Highlight Most Assaults Occur Between People Who Know Each Other

Statistics tell us that a slight majority of assaults occur between people who know each other (see also here). Assault is generally a much more emotional physical encounter than cold blooded robbery and muggings. This is an important distinction. Assault is often very passionate but doesn't generally involve a deliberate intent to cause severe damage or injury. It often involves a lot of posturing, similar to how two animals of the same species fight.

What does this mean? It means we need to be as careful of people we know as we are about strangers. Below is a sampling of real news stories showing various real cases of assaults occurring between people who know each other. They involve teachers and students, partners, opposing gang members and more. The message is, its not just strangers who fight at pubs over spilt drinks and offensive 'looks'. Most of the time we know the aggressor.

Hopefully this post will provide a little food for thought. Lets get into it.

Two People Fight Over Parking Spot at McDonalds

In Loveland on July 29, 2008, two people who had been having arguments about a particular parking spot for over a month, finally came to blows one day.

Both men routinely went to the McDonald's in the morning. But on July 29, 2008, Albers found Brandt had parked his pickup and trailer across the spot the older man used almost daily for about 16 years. Albers, according to testimony, had a month previously complained to Brandt about his parking.
The case hinged on whether contractor Brandt felt under imminent threat of attack by Albers, who had approached Brandt's truck over his parking. Albers testified Brandt's truck and trailer were blocking his preferred parking spot at the restaurant, so he got out of his SUV, walked up to Brandt's truck and tapped or knocked on the door.
Prosecutors say Brandt, then 51, knew exactly what he was doing when he swung open his truck door, knocking Albers to the ground. Defense attorney Troy Krenning argued in his closing, however, that Albers started the confrontation because he was "agitated" over Brandt's parking job.

This case shows that people don't need to necessarily be your friend, but an assault situation can very easily develop between two people who simply get on each others nerves over a period of time. Often, little issues grow into a situation that results in a physical altercation, such as what happens in the above example. Stupid and pointless, but it happens.

Students v Teachers

A report on school violence recently highlighted some statistics involving crime, violence, drop outs and discipline. In just Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, the numbers are as follows,

Data from 2008-09 showed 169 assaults against CMS employees, up from 104 the previous year. There were also 17 assaults with weapons and 15 involving serious injuries, categories that include staff or students as victims.

That's more than a 50% increase. It goes on,

More than half the assaults on employees were committed by students younger than high school, Gorman said, including 20 by students in kindergarten through second grade.

That is quite a disturbing number. This is children between the ages of five and twelve. These children are assaulting adults! What is going on here? Indeed, this would be a very challenging environment for the teachers. What can they do? They can't be expected to fight back, as the attackers are children. I do not envy any teachers who find themselves in these situations. I am really unsure as to what to recommend here. It needs to be the parents who fix this issue. Not sure if that will happen though. Difficult one.

Rival Gang Members Fight at House Party

This is a not so surprising case of members of two different gangs fighting at a house party.

Police are asking the public's help in identifying the suspects who assaulted two people during a fight between rival gangs at a party in Santa Rosa Saturday night.
Two 18-year-old men were hospitalized with head injuries sustained in the fight during the party attended by more than 200 people in the 2000 block of Dennis Lane in northwest Santa Rosa, Sgt. Rainer Navarro said

It is not just the pubs and clubs where these types of incidents occur, but at house parties as well. Actually, from the statistics highlighted in the opening paragraph, we can see that most cases of assault occur in the home or near the home. This is possibly due to assaults occurring at the numerous house parties that occur around the world every weekend. It is also likely to occur due to there being no security staff or doorman at these parties. Likely attackers can get away with escalating things to the physical level more readily and with lower risk. On top of that, many people who are at house parties know each other. Combine that with alcohol and there is a good chance of two people who know each other coming to blows. Something to consider.

Man Points Pistol at Girlfriend

March, 2010. An argument led a man to pull a gun at his girlfriend,

The man had gotten into an argument with his 27-year-old girlfriend and put a pistol to her head, he said. David said the suspect threatened to shoot the woman.

A simple case example here. Two people who obviously know each other become involved in an incident where one person pulls a pistol and points it at the others head, threatening to shoot them. This is further evidence that these types of incidents are often emotionally charged and probably involve an element of saving face and a desire to not back down. In these situations, things can escalate quite rapidly. Luckily here, the man did not follow through on his threat. It would only have taken a slight pull on one finger to change everything between the two of them forever.

Man Strangled then Threatened Girlfriend with Knife

March, 2010. A 40yr old man at Stamford attacked his girlfriend after she asked him for help finding a job recently.

A 40-year-old city resident allegedly choked his girlfriend and then went after her with a large kitchen knife before a neighbor intervened Thursday morning, police said.
On Thursday, the couple got into an argument when the girlfriend asked Martinez to help her find a job, police said. Martinez threw her to the ground and began choking her, police said.
The girlfriend ran to a neighbor's, but Martinez grabbed a large kitchen knife and came after his girlfriend, Lupinacci said. The neighbor, a woman, got in-between the girlfriend and Martinez, who fled, police said.

A similar situation to the case above. It is almost impossible to determine, but it is worth noting that the man strangled her at first. It doesn't say why he stopped doing this. It sounds like he let her go. Why did he let her out of the strangulation hold? It is possible that the man did not really want to strangle/kill her. This is in line with many emotionally charged cases. Yes there are numerous examples of one partner killing the other in a moment of passion and yes, he did then go for a knife. But it is worth noting still. Perhaps he just wanted to threaten the woman with the knife. It is impossible to tell by the information we have here. Regardless, another serious case involving two partners which can become super charged with emotion very quickly.

Beware those you know just as much as those you don't know.

Intoxicated Teacher Chases her Boyfriend

March, 2010. A 28yr old woman recently was very emotionally charged when she was searching for her boyfriend. She ended up being charged with burglary, criminal trespass and simple assault:

Officers spoke with Sherry Rizzo, who said she returned from work with her boyfriend, Fabian Thomas, when Goldstein pulled behind their vehicle and began screaming racial slurs at Thomas.
Goldstein was highly intoxicated and accused the couple of hiding her boyfriend, Thomas told police.
According to Rizzo, Goldstein stated, “Where is my boyfriend smoking crack?”
Rizzo replied she did not know where he was.
Rizzo and Thomas walked away from Goldstein and headed into their apartment. The couple told police they had the door shut, the criminal complaint states.
Shortly after, Goldstein came into their home without permission and started a fight with Rizzo.
Goldstein was asked to leave but she refused and swung at Rizzo striking her in the face. Rizzo asked her to leave several more times, but Goldstein continued to fight.

People you know, who are not necessarily your friend, but an acquaintance, can do some silly things, as can be seen here. We can also see that alcohol was a contributing factor. Another example of an emotionally charged and alcohol fuelled situation that went a lot further than it needed to.

Former Employee Attacks Old Workplace

On February 27, 2010, a former employee of Popeye's restaurant in Penfield, and his sister, attacker a former worker and robbed the restaurant:

Police were called to the restaurant on Saturday, February 27th, for the report of a robbery.
Investigators believe that Crimm approached Ben Overmyer and struck him over the head with a golf club. The 24-year-old lost an eye in the attack and has several broken bones in his face.
"I consider him a good friend of mine so it was pretty upsetting for me to hear something like that,” said Popeye's employee Jordan Barney.

Another case where the victim knew the attacker. These assault situations can evolve out of many different scenarios. There is obviously some ill will here between the attacker and his former work place and/or co-workers. There is again an inherent amount of emotion involved in this attack. The one thing here is that there appears to be a certain amount of pre meditation. From the information provided it is difficult to ascertain the time period between when he finished working at the restaurant and when he went back with the golf club and his sister. I would guess that it was not long at all. With time, his emotions would likely have subsided and the crime would likely never have eventuated.

Man Assaults Mother and Father

This is a rather different case here. On February 20, 2010, a 28 yr old man dragged his mother around by the hair and choked his father:

...their son had grabbed his mother by the clothing and dragged her around a parking area outside their home, then kicked the car repeatedly when she locked herself inside and he couldn’t get at her. He did visible damage to the car.
Johnson’s father told deputies his son had punched him several times and choked him.
According to a complaint filed in the Dakota County Attorney’s office Johnson’s parents said their son had been drinking and had not been taking his prescribed Zoloft.

There seems to be an element of mental illness in this case. Zoloft is used to treat depression and anxiety.

People don't need to be sane and in a good state of mental health to become involved in assault. This is an obvious statement but needs to be pointed out. People we know who suffer from a mental illness also need to be considered as possible aggressors. Some people would say it is unfair to identify these people as a possible aggressor, but they cannot be ruled out entirely. This case clearly identifies they can in fact become aggressive.


So we have seen that assault often happens between two people who know each other. We go deeper into this topic, and explore robbery and homicide, weapons attacks plus much more in our online course called Understanding Modern Violence. This course was developed completely in-house. It is totally free so be sure to check it out.

Image by Paulo Brandao