FLUSHING, Queens -- Was a roadside dispute that turned fatal an accident, a simple altercation, or was it an intentional act of deadly violence?
Those are questions that prosecutors have been grappling with, but on Thursday, hundreds of demonstrators called for the strongest charges possible to be leveled against the alleged perpetrator.
The incident happened on July 22. Vincent Tse, 68, scraped his car against the car Cleamon Anderson, 44, was double parked in on Colden Street near 45th Avenue. It's not clear who was at fault.
What is clear is the initial interaction between the two men. It was captured by the dashboard camera in Tse's car.
On the video, both men stand side by side in front of the hood of Tse's car, using their smartphones to apparently record information. After about a minute, they separate to either side of the car. Shortly thereafter, their voices rise, and Anderson runs over to Tse.
What happens next is off camera. Anderson's sister, Robin Anderson Scott, an NYPD schools agent, told investigators that Tse slipped and fell. But detectives found surveillance video from nearby, which apparently shows Anderson punching the senior citizen.
Anderson has been charged with felony assault, but that's not a severe enough charge for hundreds of protesters who turned out on Thursday to call for the charges to be upgraded to manslaughter or murder.
"I just want to have justice in a way that my father would want it to be done," said Steven Tse, the victim's son, at the end of the protest march.
It started at the Selfhelp Benjamin Rosenthal Prince Innovative Senior Center, where Tse volunteered as a cook, and where he'd been headed when the alleged altercation took place. The march ended at the corner of Colden Street and 45th Avenue, where Tse met his tragic fate.
The depth of that tragedy, protesters said, merits the most serious of charges. "[Prosecutors] were stating they had trouble proving intent," said Karlin Chan, a close friend of the Tse family. "Intent is when you have a six foot two, 275 pound man intentionally escalate a situation [over] a minor fender bender. There is the intent there."
"There is the intent there when he chose not to walk away," said Chan.
Attempts by PIX11 to reach Anderson did not yield any results. Meanwhile, regarding his charges, a spokesperson for Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown gave this statement:
We understand the anguish and emotions of the family and friends of Mr. Tse. We are bound, however, by the law in making our charging decisions. The law judges not just the result but the intent. The result was death but the facts do not support an intent to cause death or serious injury. The facts only support an intent to cause physical injury. The facts known to us are that one punch was thrown and no weapon was used. Mr. Tse fell and tragically struck his head – which caused his death. Due to the disparity in age between Mr. Tse and the defendant we were able to charge Cleamon Anderson with a felony assault, which carries a penalty of up to seven years in prison if convicted.
The case has yet to go before a grand jury, said the assemblyman for the district, Ron Kim. He and other protesters said that they're not only hoping for a grand jury indictment of manslaughter or homicide, they're hoping the D.A. will change his mind and pursue more severe charges now.
"I pray they do the right thing," said Steven Tse, the victim's son, "[and] upgrade the charges."
Meanwhile, the NYPD confirmed that Anderson's sister, a schools agent, was suspended earlier in the summer, but her duty status is now active.