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Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture
A good example of self-defence? What do you think?

This video was shared with me by Doug Wiltshire. One for group analysis!

It is presented as “Bully knocked out by vendor” so let’s run with that for the time being:

If that is what is happening, then the victim managed distance very well and it would seem that he did pretty much all he could to avoid confrontation. Because of the well managed distance, the avoidance and counter was very decisive. There is no fuelling of aggression through counter-aggression and there is a demonstrated intent to avoid violence. The victim was clearly ready to act the instant violence was unavoidable; no doubt due to the numerous cues from the aggressor (i.e. adjusting of clothing to prepare for action, attempts to cut off escape route, splaying of arms, etc.). It was clear that violence was very likely and it was not going to end at the cart pushing phase. The fact he leaves immediately after the punch has landed (i.e. no unnecessary follow ups) would also seem to be commendable.

Watch the video and see what you think?


Did you see it? Or did you spot the picture to the right before viewing? You can see it most clearly from 19 to 25 seconds. I looks to me like a knife. It would seem to have been transferred to the left hand before the punch is thrown.

Is this video exactly as presented? Or was a knife pulled? Is it possible that the gent in black is not the villain of the piece but is instead trying to protect others from a guy who has pulled a knife in a public area?

This video is potentially a very interesting exercise on how we, and witnesses, can get things very wrong! The hundreds of thousands of people who have seen this video online have the guy in white as the good guy. It would seem that the guy videoing and those in the surrounding area never noticed the knife either. I never saw it on the first viewing, so if I was there, I may well have gone along with the consensus.

Before seeing the knife, it was “bully in black knocked out by good guy in white”. Once I saw the knife, I realised it could just has easily have been, “Good guy in black tries to deal with armed man in public area … and gets knocked out, branded the bad guy and ends up facing legal difficulties as hundreds of eye witnesses support the villian’s story”. Not seeing what went before or after, it’s impossible to tell.

Nevertheless, one to ponder over!

All the best,


Wastelander's picture

Good catch! I completely missed that when I saw the video, even though I was vaguely aware of what he was doing with his hands. This is a great example of the power of perception, and the limitations of both eyewitness accounts and even video evidence.

Marcus_1's picture

I can't believe I missed that knife (easy to say when sat behind a computer watching, in "real life" a totally different story!)  Without having seen the "complete" build up to this incident, ie why the guy in white had a knife, was there any immediate history etc, it is hard to say who is the "villain".    

Watching it first time over, the guy in black certainly seemd to be the aggressor and it was exactly as you mentioned Iain, the guy in white managing space etc, however on 2nd viewing, the guy in black could well have been trying to use that cart as an obstacle between him and the guy in white having seen the knife. Two totally different perspectives depending on if you have seen the knife or not.

John's picture

A few other things I noticed.  That cart is called a "boardwalk rolling chair" and the guy in the white shirt probably pushes it around all day which might explain why he so easily knocked the guy out (you would stay in pretty good shape doing that). 

It's also sounds like that guy in the black and grey striped shirt says "just let it go man" to the "bully" at 14s. Given his proximity to the "bully" at the start, he would seem to be with him.

Was the guy in the white shirt pushing the cart around and accidentaly ran into him? He seems to be holding the cart with both hands at the start and I don't see him holding the knife then (the resolution is to low to determine that).

Dale Parker
Dale Parker's picture

Not sure its a knife, but you can see the hand off from right to left.

Ian H
Ian H's picture

A few thoughts on that:

If "black shirt" is the good guy, knowing that "white shirt" has a knife and is dangerous, it makes no sense for him to advance upon him, instead of backing off and calling out "look out, he's got a knife" so that the innocent bystanders he'd be trying to protect could back off and someone call the police.  

The fact that "white shirt" switches the blade to his non-hitting hand before knocking out "black shirt" and then leaves "black shirt" alone after the one knockout blow implies to me that he was only acting in self defence. 

Stevenson's picture

Yep context is such an important element.

Why was the guy in black being aggressive in the first place?

If the guy in White was the aggressor with a knife, why was he not attacking with it?

If he switches the knife from right to left hand, and then strikles right handed (let's presume for the moment he is right handed) then wouldn't that argue against aggressive intent?

Perhaps the guy in white had ripped off the guy in black.

All we can say is what information we have in the video. Without further context I think it is fair to conclude the guy in black was the aggressor and the guy in white defended himself legitimately.

Marc's picture

Interesting. Can't wait for the prequel to this film. :) Otherwise we cannot know what lead to the situation.

From what we can see in the clip, it seems likely to me that the guy in white maybe (accidentally) hit the guy in black with his cart, who then got angry. The guy in black does not seem to use the cart as protection between him and the other guy because he soon moves around the cart to get closer to the white guy.

The images are a bit too blurry to tell but to me it seems as if the guy in white first uses both hands to grab the cart handle bar. His right hand seems to be empty right before he steps back from the cart.

He then steps back and the moment his right hand is behind his side he hold that thing in his hand.

From what I can see it could easily be a knife but could also be a screwdriver. Anyway, he conceales it elegantly from the guy in black but does not make any attempt to put it in his pocket or something to hide it from witnesses. He seems to have grabbed it and to hold on to it just in case.

The guy in black does his monkey dance and the guy in white keeps his distance.

The guy in black then attempts to hit with a classic big wide hook punch. He puts it all into this one swing. No follow up possible after that.

Had he not been hit back in the face by the other guy's forearm, he would have landed on the ground anyway (though not unconcious).

By the way: I noticed the advertisement text overlay only when I slowmo'ed through the clip.

Reminds me a bit of this test of selective attention:

Count how many times the team in white pass the basketball.


And don't count on witnesses backing up your version of the case. Get a good lawyer.

Take care everybody


Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Hi All,

Great posts everyone!

I’ve done a (very) quick web search to see if carrying a concealed knife would be illegal in New Jersey:

New Jersey, Criminal Code section 2C:39-3(e):

2C:39-3. Prohibited Weapons and Devices.

e. Certain weapons. Any person who knowingly has in his possession any gravity knife, switchblade knife, dagger, dirk, stiletto, billy, blackjack, metal knuckle, sandclub, slingshot, cestus or similar leather band studded with metal filings or razor blades imbedded in wood, ballistic knife, without any explainable lawful purpose, is guilty of a crime of the fourth degree.

(Fourth degree crimes carry a potential penalty of up to 18 months in jail. There is a presmption of non-custodial sentences on 4th degree offenses)

As far as I can tell, there are no restrictions that would make the knife seen illegal (so long as it is single edged and not a “dagger”) nor are there any restrictions on concealed / open carry.

Having done a similar quick search for New Jersey Self-Defence Law, I can see there is a “duty to retreat” (something we don’t have in the UK) and that the force used must be proportional to the force used or threatened upon you (UK law asks for “honest and instinctive action” and specifically states it is unreasonable to expect the level of force used to be judged to a “nicety”). The reasonableness of a defendant's belief is to be determined by the jury and not the defendant in light of the circumstance existing at the time of the offense (again, different from UK law where it is the honestly held belief that is key). If the defendant’s belief about the need to use force to protect himself is unreasonable then the defence of self-defence is unavailable (again, not the same as in the UK where an unreasonable belief can be relied upon so long as it can be shown to be honestly held). It also seems that the burden of proof lies with the defendant (and not with the prosecution as it would be in the UK).

So as an aside, I am once again very pleased that the UK laws are as they are because they are way more victim friendly that laws we find elsewhere in the world.

Back to the case in point, it would seem that if the guy in white was acting in self-defence then – knife or no knife – he did so legally. He can be seen to try to retreat, his belief that he needed to protect himself is entirely justified, the force used was proportionate, and the weapon (which was legally held) was not used (had it been it may well have been deemed disproportionate).

All the best,


Michael Rust
Michael Rust's picture

In Canada having a knife in your possesion in not illegal unless it is a gravity propelled knife.  Where a knife becomes a problem is the person Intent behind the use of that knife. In this scenario I have no idea what that guy's intent was with that knife. He may have had it in his hand already upon dealing or confronting that guy in the black. He does work at food cart so it's likely he's going to have knives and that sort of thing at his disposal. However, they are not in Canada so it doesn't really matter.

Did he use the but end of the knife to knock him out with ? I have to admit I didn't see it the first time either.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Michael Rust wrote:
In Canada having a knife in your possession in not illegal unless it is a gravity propelled knife.  Where a knife becomes a problem is the person Intent behind the use of that knife. In this scenario I have no idea what that guy's intent was with that knife. He may have had it in his hand already upon dealing or confronting that guy in the black. He does work at food cart so it's likely he's going to have knives and that sort of thing at his disposal. However, they are not in Canada so it doesn't really matter.

UK Law is stricter here. For EDC (every day carry) a knife would need to folding, less than 3 inches long and non-locking (and you need to be over 18). Any other knife would only be legal if it was carried with a “good reason”. Official examples of good reasons to carry a knife in public include: taking knives you use at work to and from work, taking knives to a gallery or museum to be exhibited, the knife is going to be used for theatre, film, television, historical re-enactment or religious purposes (i.e. a Sikh’s Kirpan). A court will decide if you’ve got a good reason to carry a knife if you’re charged with carrying it illegally.




However, any knife – even a sub 3” folding, non-locker – is deemed an offensive weapon if used in a threatening way. So in that regard, it would seem to be similar to Canadian law.

Is it a food cart? I seems to me like it is a car for transporting people. There are two seats in it and I can see no space for storing food.

Michael Rust wrote:
Did he use the butt end of the knife to knock him out with? I have to admit I didn't see it the first time either.

It seems to me that he moved it to his left hand at around 28 seconds. It looks like the striking hand is empty and you can just and so make something out in the left hand as he walked away. Difficult to tell though.

All the best,