A video of an elderly American man being beaten on the streets of Da Nang went viral this week, prompting ward police to describe the scene as the culmination of a long string of fights picked by Dennis Marshall Gray, 68, a hot-headed trouble-maker.
On Thursday morning, however, Gray told Thanh Nien News he considered himself the victim of an assault, poor police work and his own temper in more or less that order.
"Don't forget, I was the victim this weekend" he wrote in an email. "The video certainly shows that."
After the brief footage of his beating went viral online, thousands in Vietnam came to know Gray as the man who was whipped with a bicycle innertube as he struggled to escape a crowd in Thanh Khe District in the central city.
His assailant, Le Van Phuoc, 29, told Thanh Khe police he attacked Gray after the American broke a woman's nose.
Police say they'll clarify the violations committed on both sides and issue relevant fines to ensure public safety and punish violent behavior.
He said, he said
The story began when Gray hailed a taxi to take him from Bach Dang street to his rented apartment on Ham Nghi Street on Sunday evening.
His driver, Nguyen Quy, told police that Gray sat in the front seat and stank of alcohol, but was able to direct him to his apartment.
Gray said he'd had four glasses of wine. "I can say that I strongly smelled of alcohol, but was not drunk," he wrote.
While waiting for a green light at a corner near his apartment, police said he began to argue with the driver, claiming that the fee displayed on the meter was VND 10,000 ($0.47) higher than his usual fare.
"I asked to see the driver's credentials so I could note down his ID and noticed that the photo on the ID on the dashboard did not look like the driver," Gray wrote via email. "He would not give me a closer look. By that time I had lost my temper."
As the argument grew heated, Gray admits he tore off a taxi insignia glued to the cab's windshield. Quy told police that when he tried to stop Gray from leaving the vehicle, he punched him in the face and fled down Ly Thai To Street.
Quy said he followed, demanding payment.
Gray insists he never intended to stiff his driver and claimed the violence began when Quy grabbed him.
"I was carrying a large sum of money in my wallet, 10.000.000VND," Gray wrote. "The driver tried to restrain me by grabbing my right wrist. I then resisted and tried to go into the KFC shop so I could give him the money but, by that time, things had gotten out of control."
Police say that Gray threw another punch, which Quy dodged.
The errant blow reportedly broke the nose of a female bystander, Nguyen Cuu Thi Thuy Trang, who was later rushed to hospital with blood streaming down her face.
Gray then allegedly let forth a kick that knocked Quy into the doorway of a nearby shop.
Phuoc, shown in the video as wearing a striped T-shirt and black cap, claims he stepped in to try to diffuse the situation, but became angry when he saw Gray punch a woman in the face.
At that point, he told police, he picked up an old bicycle tire from a sidewalk repair shop and decided to take Gray out.
A bad temper
Gray, for his part, claims he was overwhelmed by multiple attackers.
"There was so much happening at once that I do not recall every detail," he wrote. "Most of what I know is what I have seen on the internet, which clearly shows me being assaulted."
Phuoc's second blow sent Gray reeling toward the ground, where he bashed his head against the bumper of a parked car. Bystanders helped Gray up and he walked away.
Police say they later escorted Gray to his apartment for his safety.
Investigators later returned to question him about the case, but he refused to cooperate and allegedly let forth a string of invective.
"I think the police here are pretty worthless," he wrote. "Whenever I call 113 to summon them no one answers the line. I wanted to be taken to a hospital they wanted me to go to a station."
Local police in Thac Gian Ward reported that many residents of the apartment building have complained about Gray's behavior saying he routinely made loud noise and insulted his neighbors and the building's security guards.
They further claimed that the American has refused to pay his cab fares on a number of occasions leading to altercations outside the building.
On July 21 the ward police sent a written document to his building's management board, asking them to correct Gray's bad behavior.
Gray says he never heard anything about this document, but admitted to having a short fuse.
"I've always had a temper," he said. "Ever since I was a kid."
The California-born tech entrepreneur said he spent the last 23 years in Australia.
"I've been coming to Vietnam as a tourist since 1995," he said via telephone "I've always wanted to live here with a business."
In the summer of 2012, property records show, his house in a Sydney suburb sold for $915,000.
Gray said he headed to Da Nang hoping to help an American friend, currently living in Ukraine, set up a business school.
He seemed in high spirits over the telephone, but questioned the relevance of the account that has emerged of his life here.
"I have never refused to pay a taxi driver though I have argued over fares," he wrote. "I always request a driver to take the route I want and often they drive everywhere just to increase the meter."
The disagreements at his apartment all centered around his dog, which management allowed him to keep in the building but failed to notify the security staff.
His inability to speak the language, he said, has only exacerbated the problem.
"On one occasion, I took the dog to the 4th Level to walk him and another argument ensued," he wrote. "Someone, not a security guard, pushed me into the swimming pool. I insisted the police come but nothing was done about the person who assaulted me."
The way forward
Police say they're determined to resolve the issue and fine Phuoc and Gray for the violent altercation.
However, their attempts to interview Gray about the incident failed again, on Thursday morning, when an investigator arrived at his house at 8 a.m..
"I shook hands with him," Gray said. "He was very nice."
Gray said he would speak to police when a Vietnamese friend (with good English skills) can accompany him to the station.
In the meantime, he's headed to Ho Chi Minh City to renew his visa and find out what to do about the fact that a photocopy of his passport was posted online along with his home address.
"Someone compromised my identity," he said. "I think that's probably a crime."