COLLEGE POINT, Queens (WABC) --A 21-year-old man is clinging to life after he was nearly beaten to death inside College Point Park in Queens Wednesday night.
It happened just after 6 p.m. near College Point Boulevard and 14th Avenue on the handball court, and police believe the victim may have hit his head on the concrete.
Those who knew 21-year-old John Pierre Villenueva say he had plans to join the Marine corps this fall, but instead of fighting in combat, he is now fighting for his life.
Villenueva, known as JP to his friends, is on life support at New York Presbyterian Queens Hospital after a vicious shot to his head knocked him out cold. Witnesses tell police the fight happened because he was allegedly "disrespecting" his assailant. But friends say that's not the JP they know.
"He was a good kid," one friend said. "Good kid, really good kid."
Villenueva briefly worked at a pizza shop just two blocks away from the park, and his former boss saw him around 5 p.m. Wednesday.
"He seemed like he was a good kid," former co-worker Danny Loiacono said. "He just wanted to make a few bucks here and there until he was going to leave."
Police believe Villenueva cracked his skull after hitting his head on the ground after that knockout punch. He has internal bleeding and is on a ventilator, unable to breathe on his own with massive trauma to his brain.
Friends say the College Point man was often at the park playing handball. Investigators are posting signs around the area, even though witness descriptions of the suspect are vague and even conflicting.
"He was a really cool guy," Edward Leal said. "Down to earth and stuff. I was just, like, I don't know. I don't know what to feel."
Exactly how the dispute began is unknown at this time, but the suspect is facing felony assault charges. A $2,500 reward is being offered for information leading to an arrest.