BOSTON (CBS) – It’s almost unreal for Joe Sharkey’s mom to think that her star-athlete son is now lying near motionless at Rhode Island Hospital. The Brown University sophomore was sucker-punched just steps from campus early Sunday morning. Providence police think the 21-year-old, who plays on the Ivy League school’s basketball team, may have been trying to calm people down after a fight when someone hit him from behind.
“I think he’d only step in as much as he could. I mean, he’s not a fighter,” his mother Denise told WBZ news in an exclusive interview at the family’s Norwood home. “Definitely ask anyone, he’s a mellow kid. But he would try to do the right thing if he saw somebody getting hurt.”
“If we have time to stop and think about it, I get really angry about it,” she says. “But it’s one of those things I guess you think happens to other people you know, and that makes me crazy to think about it that way, so I don’t.”
Denise, her husband, and other family members are traveling back and forth between home and the hospital, making sure someone’s always by Joe’s side.
The Sharkey family says they’ve been overwhelmed by the support they’re getting from people in their hometown as well as from the Brown university community and beyond.
Denise says the support means a lot to the family, “and I know Joe feels it,” she adds. “He gave us a thumbs up yesterday morning so that was a good sign.”
Late Wednesday, police in Vernon, Connecticut announced the arrest of 25-year-old Tory Lussier in connection with the attack. He’s expected to head to Rhode Island where he will face charges.
Of the arrest, Sharkey’s mom says she is glad to see police moved so quickly, but says the focus is on Joe’s recovery.
“It’s hard mentally to really think of anything else,” she explains.
Doctors are working to relieve the pressure on his brain caused by swelling. They say the next four or five days are critical to his recovery.