Mother of man badly beaten while playing Pokemon Go in Winston-Salem shares his story

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AnnaJo Mannino and Vincent George Mannino

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Two weeks after being brutally beaten while playing Pokemon Go, a 39-year-old Winston-Salem man remains in the hospital; recently regaining the ability to speak for the first time since the attack.

On Monday, Winston-Salem police released surveillance video of the victim – Vincent George Mannino – walking near the 700 block of Liberty Street, moments before being assaulted. In the video, another man can be seen walking behind Mannino, whom police believe may be responsible.

While her son lay in a hospital bed with stitches to his head and face, a fractured eye socket and nasal bones, Mannino’s mother, AnnaJo Mannino, spoke to FOX8.

“He’s a gamer. He’s a Star Wars lover, he’s a Brony,” she said.

A Brony is a name typically given to a male viewer or fan of My Little Pony.

“He’s six-foot-two, 280, so you say something to him about the ponies,” AnnaJo joked.

The night of Nov. 14, AnnaJo, Vincent (referred to as Vinnie by friends and family) and several others went to dinner.

Around 8:30, Vinnie told AnnaJo he was going to go “hatching and catching,” referring to Pokemon Go.

“I said, ‘OK cool, just be careful,’” AnnaJo recalled. “The last thing he said was, ‘Ma, have you seen me? I’m a pretty big guy.’”

AnnaJo said Vinnie recently lost 40 pounds as a result of the game.

“He’s been walking seven miles every night after work,” she added.

Along his walk, a surveillance camera captured the moments which were released by police. In it, Mannino can be seen walking with his cellphone in hand, and directly behind him, a man can be seen walking in the same direction.

“He looks to be every bit as big as Vinnie,” AnnaJo said.

The second man appears to look around, possibly scanning for potential witnesses before following Mannino out of the camera’s view.

“It happened at 12:30 that night,” AnnaJo said of the attack. “They didn’t find him until 4 o’clock.”

Mannino was found badly beaten and incoherent near 770 Liberty View Court. AnnaJo tells FOX8 the person who found Vinnie – coincidentally – was a friend of his. However, Vinnie’s injuries were so severe, the friend didn’t realize it was him until several hours after EMS took him to the hospital.

“This first time I saw the video I threw up,” AnnaJo said. “All Vinnie’s doing is playing a video game. It appeared to look so innocent.”

AnnaJo went on to say that her son’s cellphones were taken, but she does not think this was a robbery.

“His backpack wasn’t taken,” she said. “His wallet with money in it, and his credit cards, and his driver’s license, all which could have been used by somebody, wasn’t taken.”

The stitches and fractures are minor long-term compared to trauma in two areas of his brain, according to AnnaJo. She added that – within the last two days – Vinnie spoke for the first time since the attack.

“He said, ‘I feel like something terrible happened,’ and I said, ‘Yeah, yeah you could say that,’” AnnaJo said, of their exchange.

AnnaJo told FOX8 that doctors told her that it could be two years before Vinnie could become an active citizen again, where he’s able to care for himself. She added that he is going to need 24/7 care when he is released.

“He may not be as he was before this. He may never be the same,” she said. “He’s my little boy. He’s my son, always will be, and when I look at him in that bed, he, he just didn’t deserve this.”

AnnaJo said she forgives whoever her son’s attacker may be. However, she is calling upon anyone who may be able to shed light on the person’s identity to come forward.

“I don’t want this guy to do this to somebody else and have that family go through what we’ve been going through for the last 14 days,” she said. “I wouldn’t wish this on anyone.”

Friends and family have rallied around Vinnie, including members of the Pokemon Go Winston-Salem Facebook group, who have pushed his story out to the larger Pokemon Go community.

A GoFundMe has been set up with a $15,000 goal, with nearly $13,000 raised at the time of this writing.

Several fundraising events have also been organized, including Sunday, Dec. 4, at Single Brothers, Silver Moon Saloon and Test Pattern, all in Winston-Salem, from 4 to 9 p.m. Seven bands are expected to play, and there will also be a silent auction, raffle and part of the bar proceeds from all three establishments will be donated.

Then on Dec. 18, from 1 to 4 p.m., there will be a raffle and other fundraising activities at 3 Blind Dice, which is also in Winston-Salem.

A larger-scale fundraiser and other related events are also in the works.

“God is here, and good is here. When you have God, and you have good, you always have the devil and you have evil,” AnnaJo said. “This guy was an evil monster.”

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