A grieving Bronx family is stunned that the teen accused of sucker-punching their father and husband is being charged with a misdemeanor that could result in the suspect doing less than a year in jail.
Ildefonso Romero Jr. died days after a teenage boy allegedly sucker-punched him outside his home on Thieriot Avenue in Soundview on June 21. Witnesses said Romero had been protecting a girl from local teens who were apparently causing trouble in the street, and one of the teens punched Romero.
Romero fell and hit his head on the curb, and his son found him unconscious on the ground.
"I'm holding his hand and I'm looking at him and asking him, you know, 'Papi, wake up, Papi, get up,' and he wouldn't respond," said Noel Romero, the victim's son.
Ildefonso Romero's wife Jenny Guevarez said tearfully, "I kept on calling his name so he could wake up."
Romero died June 24.
Police arrested a 17-year-old, and though prosecutors believe he caused Romero's death, the Bronx district attorney's office has charged him with misdemeanor assault, which means he could end up serving less than a year if he's convicted.
"This guy kills my father and he's only gonna serve a year in jail? What kind of justice is that?" asked Noel Romero.
"A slap on the wrist, it's not fair," added Jennifer Perez, the victim's daughter.
The district attorney's office wouldn't comment other than to say the evidence didn't warrant additional charges. Sources familiar with the case say the district attorney believes there was no recklessness or intent to cause serious bodily harm.
Attorney information for the suspect wasn't immediately available.
Romero's family says the charge doesn't amount to justice for a man who raised five children, was two years shy of retiring from his job at Lincoln Hospital and was killed days before turning 60 and celebrating 34 years of marriage.
"I was planning his 60th birthday," said Guevarez. "A surprise party, and the surprise was for us. In one second, they took his life away."
Local officials are asking the district attorney's office to upgrade the charges, and are also drafting legislation that would make it mandatory for similar one-punch crimes to result in more jail time.