NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — The family of a Florida man who police say was fatally punched in the face while visiting New York City for a wedding spoke about their son’s death Friday.
“We knew he might not be able to talk, but maybe he could squeeze our hand,” Sandor Szabo’s father, Bob Kent, told Inside Edition.
“You just hope — every twitch you think is a twitch, and so you call the doctor and say ‘I saw his finger twitch,’ and they’re like ‘that’s not a twitch,'” his mother, Donna Kent, added.
Szabo died Tuesday. The medical examiner’s office has ruled his death a homicide caused by blunt impact to his head.
Police said the 35-year-old marketing professional from Boca Raton fell and hit his head on the sidewalk after he was punched Sunday on 29th Street near 41st Avenue in Long Island City, Queens.
A college basketball coach from North Carolina has been charged in connection with the attack.
Jamill Jones, an assistant men’s basketball coach at Wake Forest University, pleaded not guilty at his arraignment Thursday night on a misdemeanor assault charge and was released on his own recognizance.
Relatives say Szabo tapped on the window of Jones’ SUV while searching for his Uber after leaving a family wedding around 1:15 a.m. Sunday.
Investigators say Jones got out and punched Szabo, who fell to the ground and hit his head. Szabo died at the hospital after two days on life support.
“When we saw the way his face looked, we knew that wasn’t just a normal ‘don’t knock on my car’ hit from a guy. That was somebody who was really strong who could cause that much damage to somebody’s face,” said Donna Kent.
Jones, 35, of Kernersville, turned himself in to police Thursday morning.
“We would like to extend our deepest condolences to the Szabo family for the loss of their son, Sabor Szabo,” his family said in a statement. “It is our sincere hope that this matter not be tried in the court of public opinion. The Jones family stands by Jamill, and his legal right to be presumed innocent in what is, ultimately, a tragic incident.”
“Jamill Jones is a wonderful son and father – a good-hearted man who protects his loved ones from harm. As the father of two young children, their safety and wellbeing is of the utmost importance to him at all times. As a coach, Jamill safely shepherds young men to be respectful contributors to society while competing at the highest levels of collegiate sports,” the statement continued. “Jamill is a man of good character and has a strong work ethic. Those two qualities led him to become one of the top assistant college basketball coaches in the country. Before working in collegiate basketball, he worked directly with youth basketball players. At every stop in Jamill’s career, he has been regarded as a key contributor to the success of his students, colleagues, and teams.”
Wake Forest said Jones has been placed on leave.
“If his basketball players go up, bring the ball down, and their elbow hits somebody in the face, it’s an accident. But if their basketball player gets off the bench and goes and punches somebody in the face, that’s intentional, that’s not an accident,” Donna Kent said. “What he did was not an accident. So don’t make yourself feel better by calling it an accident.”
The family said “he will be missed but there is comfort knowing he will live on in the many lives he will save through organ donation.”
Jones is due back in court on Oct. 2.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)