1980s Video of Beating Gets New Life on Internet

A frame from the beating video. (The Post has chosen not to link to the video because it shows graphic violence.)
A frame from the beating video. (The Post has chosen not to link to the video because it shows graphic violence.)
By Josh White
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, August 31, 2009

The grainy, aged video clip begins as a bit of a joke, with the leader of a Dumfries karate dojo sarcastically introducing a local man who says he wants to teach a group of karate experts a few things. The man, who says he learned karate from Jesus Christ, steps up to spar with a black belt, but the fight quickly degrades into a vicious beating, ending with the black belt stomping the man's head until he is bleeding and falls unconscious on the floor.

The victim is then dragged out by his legs, leaving a trail of blood. Cryptic messages posted with the video online imply that the man was left to die in a dumpster after he messed with the wrong people on Dec. 13, 1984.

It leaves his fate a mystery.

The controversial video, first posted on YouTube, has gone viral over the past week, being posted and reposted on countless Web sites. Thousands of online comments opine that the man was killed and that the incident amounted to an unsolved murder. Some called for the dojo leader's head, and others alleged a police coverup. Police in Dumfries and Prince William County have fielded numerous calls from concerned people across the country and spent days trying to sort out an incident that is nearly 25 years old.

A police chief in California -- where the dojo leader now lives -- got into the act and went on local television vowing local, state and federal investigations into what he called a "cold case."

Except the case isn't cold, and the man wasn't killed. The viral video is another example of what can happen so easily on the Internet, with sketchy information leading to wild speculation -- and wild-goose chases for police.

"We appreciate that the video was sent to us and that people saw it and were concerned," said Sgt. Kim Chinn, a Prince William police spokeswoman. "This is going to happen more and more now with the Internet, and you often can't tell the times or the dates, who's in the video or if it is real or not."

Capt. Ronald Mackey of the Dumfries Police Department said that the video appears to be real but that police have confirmed that the victim was not killed, since he was interviewed after the fact.

The dojo's leader, Bobby Joe Blythe, could not be reached to comment, nor could the man with the black belt who appears in the video. Officials have not been able to determine the victim's name.

The karate video appears to be shot in the defunct dojo of Blythe, a former U.S. Marine. The small storefront dojo in an obscure Dumfries shopping mall is the same room once featured on NBC's "Today" show in the early 1980s because of Blythe's pioneering work developing female bodyguards for a company he worked with. That company's work was also featured in the New York Times in 1982.

Though long gone, the dojo is clearly the setting for the video, along with at least one other video in which Blythe tells his black belt students that they can do anything they want within the dojo. The video clip of the fight is unmistakably violent. The local man, claiming to be a priest and an expert in martial arts, says he wants to demonstrate some moves: "I just wish to teach you. I don't wish to hurt you . . . I'm not a fighter."

Blythe sarcastically talks about the man's qualifications and then steps away to let the black belt spar with him. After a few mutual blows, the black belt overpowers the man, who appears to give up -- he says, "You're good" -- before he is taken to the ground, kneed in the head, slammed into a metal pole and then stomped.

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