The sister of a rural Lawrence man who allegedly was attacked Friday by a teen-ager with a baseball bat at Centennial Park said her brother was suffering from memory loss and was having coordination problems on the left side of his body.
The victim's sister said her brother, 21, was struck in the back of the head, the right side of his face and in the legs during the attack. He was listed in fair condition today at the Kansas University Medical Center, Kansas City, Kan., where he was taken by Life Flight helicopter after the incident.
During an interview Wednesday at her Lawrence home, the man's sister said nurses told the family that the victim had a 50-50 chance of survival when he arrived at KUMC.
Doctors performed emergency surgery, cutting a hole in the back of his skull to relieve pressure caused by a blood clot. A metal plate will be placed in the victim's head to cover the hole, the victim's sister said.
She said doctors planned to repair damage to the victim's face with plastic plates.
For at least two days after the attack, she said, the victim was unconscious. Now, she said, he has recovered enough to speak.
But the blows have had lingering effects. The victim's sister said her brother was having trouble with his memory.
"One day, we asked him if he knew where he was, and he said 'Lawrence Memorial,'" she said. "We told him that that was where they took him at first but that now he was at the KU Medical Center. Then we asked him later where he was, and he said 'Somewhere in the middle of Kansas.'"
She said her brother would undergo physical and occupational therapy, but doctors were unsure whether he would completely regain his coordination and memory.
Meanwhile, police and prosecutors are continuing to investigate the incident.
Lawrence police reported that the victim was among about 30 people who were having a get-together in the park when the incident occurred. Officers reported that about 11 p.m., a car driven by the teen-ager struck a car belonging to someone at the gathering.
The man whose car was struck shattered the back window of the teen-ager's car with a bat. The teen-ager and another teen-age boy who was riding with him parked their car and moved into the group.
Police Lt. David Cobb, head of the detective division, said today that the driver, who is 16, struck someone in the group with a bat. That person was treated at Lawrence Memorial Hospital and later released.
Cobb said someone in a red pickup truck then pulled up to the 16-year-old boy. Investigators believe the truck may have struck the boy and that the boy may have hit the truck with his bat.
The 21-year-old victim who is now at KUMC, Cobb said, walked over to see what was happening and was attacked by the boy. The man fell to the ground and began vomiting and having seizures.
Police and the victim's sister said the man had nothing to do with the confrontation that led to the attack.
Seeing that the victim was seriously injured, Cobb said, the boy ran away.
While police investigated the incident, rumors about the incident took root. The 21-year-old man's sister said she had heard rumors that the teen-agers were gang members and that the attack was a case of mistaken identity. She said there had been talk that the attack was racially motivated.
Cobb said he also had heard those rumors and that they were untrue. The teen-agers claimed to have gang ties, he said, but investigators did not believe the boys were heavily involved in an organized gang.
Cobb and the victim's sister said the get-together was for members of a social group commonly known in Lawrence as "slabbers" or "hicks" -- people in their teens to mid-20s who listen to country and western music and wear western-style clothing.
The victim's sister said problems between that group and local blacks have frequently erupted and may have been behind rumors the attack was racially motivated.
But neither Cobb nor the woman thought racism was involved.
Cobb said he believed the incident was simply "one act of violence basically bringing out another act of violence."
"It's one person breaking out the window because he's angry, which infuriated the other person," Cobb said. "And he says, well, I'm going to go back and get him."