'Ridiculous': Friends Defend 75-Year-Old Targeted by Trump After Police Injured Him at Protest

"Martin spends all of his time trying to figure out how to use his gifts and his resources to benefit others," says Daloisio. The pair met through their work with Witness Against Torture, a group devoted to shutting down the prison in Guantanamo.

Despite the president's tweet — as well as conspiratorial suggestions in some online circles that other video from Thursday shows Gugino was agitating protesters before the police pushed him — those who know him say the truth is far different. (The viral video of his encounter with police begins with him walking up to them and is about 30 seconds long.)

"Martin's one of the sweetest people I've ever met, he is a kind and gentle man," Daloisio tells PEOPLE. "I think every picture you've probably ever seen of him, he's smiling and that's not contrived. That's just how he is.  He is very unassuming and someone who doesn't want to draw attention to himself."

Daloisio hasn't been able to speak to Gugino since the injury, but he has left messages and sent texts, which have been returned with heart emojis.

Ross, with the Peace Center, says that Gugino "has been in a lot of pain, and it's been very difficult."

Friends say Gugino had a career in computers before retiring and then caring for his elderly mother, Rita, at her house before she died.

"When I met them all in 2012, we just really talked about how she felt that Martin was so important to her and so helpful," says Zarcone, noting the bachelor is also a doting uncle to his late sister's children and grandchildren.

While Gugino is now out of the ICU, "he's exhausted, he really, really needs to rest," Zarcone says. "And then we need to assess whether he'll make a full recovery or not."

She says she is working with the law firm of Lipsitz Green Scime Cambria on Gugino's constitutional claim and a possible personal injury lawsuit.

The White House on Wednesday doubled down on Trump's theory. The press secretary told reporters, "The president was asking questions about an interaction in a video clip he saw, and the president has the right to ask those questions."

At a meeting of the Peace Center last week, Gugino, treasurer of the group's Latin solidarity committee, was talking with Ross about the particulars of distributing money to different Latina anti-domestic violence groups.

"Martin's gentleness, Martin's devotion to nonviolence and to his ideals, and anyone to make statements that he is a fomenter of violence or any kind of terror is ridiculous," says Ross. "I really have to say his signature characteristic is he is is a devotee of nonviolence."

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