In the past year, three people in Vancouver have been killed by sucker punches and others have been placed in hospital, including a young man one punched while on a walk through downtown with his wife Thursday.

“We’ve had about 10 of these incidents in Vancouver this year that have resulted in serious injury like this — comas, head trauma, brain injuries. Three of them have resulted in death,” Vancouver Police’s Constable Brian Montague said at a press conference following the most recent incident.

The incident involved a 26-year-old man Vancouverite walking down the street with his wife. Two groups of people were arguing with each other on the street when the couple passed them. The 26-year-old was knocked to the ground by one of the men in the group who had turned and swung at him. He was rendered unconscious before he hit the ground. Knocking his head on the ground, he suffered a brain injury that was later treated in hospital with surgery that removed a part of his brain.

“This could happen to you or me walking down the street. There is that possibility,” Montague told reporters Thursday. “We do have individuals that come into the city that are looking for trouble, that are looking to get into fights, and unfortunately this is the result sometimes.

“In speaking with our investigators, they’re seeing more of them — or at least have seen more of them — recently. I don’t know if you’d consider it a ‘trend,’ but it’s something that is very disturbing to us.

“Some are random. Some are individuals that have a dispute in or outside of a bar. Someone bumps into each other, they may not know each other prior,” said Montague.

Because many of those one-punched are innocent bystanders, Montague said, he did not know how people could protect themselves. He said police were focusing on warning the perpetrators that there would be repercussions for their actions.

Currently, Vancouver police are recommending a charge of manslaughter. Manslaughter carries no minimum penalty. The maximum is life in prison.

By Andy Stern