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Single punch between Davenport University student athletes hospitalizes hockey player

Posted at 6:56 PM, Oct 16, 2015

KENTWOOD, Mich. – A single punch at a party between two Davenport University students has left one of them hospitalized with a brain injury and the other facing criminal charges. Davenport University rugby team player Thomas Devona, 22, was charged with misdemeanor aggravated assault Friday.

The victim, Davenport hockey player Mike Gessler, 19, is recovering at an Ann Arbor hospital.

The incident happened off campus early Sunday morning at Devona’s home on the 1300 block of Gentian Dr. SE in Kentwood.

According to probable cause court documents, Devona walked up to Gessler who was standing in the road, and admitted to punching him once in the face. Officers said the punch knocked Gessler unconscious, and he fell and hit his head on the ground.

Jim Gessler said his son does not know Devona. “We don’t know why he did it, but he came out and just smoked him right from the side and hit in the face,” said Gessler. “Just shocking, cowardly. My son’s first comments were ‘What a cowardly move.’”

The Gesslers are angry and told FOX 17 they want a more serious charge, such as felonious assault. Friday, during Devona’s video arraignment, Gessler’s father drove more than 110 miles from Brighton to address Devona.

"My son has been in intensive care for the last five days,” Jim Gessler told the courtroom.

Devona listened and responded with an apology and stated in part, “I’m not a bad person. I didn’t mean for this to happen. I extremely regret this happening.”

Jim Gessler said this apology is not helping his son recover. He shared pictures of his son lying in his hospital bed. Doctors told the Gesslers their son has a “major brain injury,” including three skull fractures and bleeding in the brain.

Mike Gessler has been playing hockey his entire life. Some doctors told the Gesslers his injuries may keep him from skating again.

“We’re a big hockey family” said Jim Gessler. "We love the game, tough game, tough sport. And to be honest, that’s why my son’s still alive, I believe, because of his toughness and how he handled himself."

“Some [doctors] are saying maybe not ever, and some are saying you know don’t say never, so it’s a bummer for that because he’s played hockey his whole life.”

Davenport University officials released a statement to FOX 17:

“Davenport University is aware of the investigation and charges related to an incident that occurred off campus between two of its athletes but cannot comment further as this matter remains under investigation by law enforcement and university officials.”

Family is at Mike’s side during recovery and said they are grateful for quick action by the Davenport University athletic director and hockey coach, who they said drove out to the hospital Sunday night.

“My thoughts are with Mike and his family," Davenport University hockey coach Phil Sweeney told FOX 17. "We hope for a full speedy recovery. He’s a good player but better teammate and person.”

Devona’s bond was set at $5,000 cash or surety. He has a criminal record with past misdemeanor convictions including malicious property destruction, breaking and entering, and now a probation violation.