NEW YORK – A West Side gay bashing has turned into an international incident with the NYPD in England tracking down the suspect – a Bronze Star recipient.
One of the victims, Blake Hayes, a 24-year-old deejay for WPLJ-FM radio, noted the conflicting portraits of the suspect.
“On paper, he’s a hero,” Hayes said of Air Force Staff Sgt. Benjamin Ford. “But when it comes to what happened … he deserves to be punished.”
Ford, an expert in defusing bombs, was part of a military contingent that was in town last September while President Obama was speaking to the UN. His job: to help protect the President and other world leaders.
Ford was outside McCoy’s Bar in Hell’s Kitchen in the early hours of Sept. 26 when the attack went down, police said.
Hayes and two friends, Alec Bell and Danny Calvert, say Ford flicked a cigarette at them, then told Calvert, “Keep moving, faggot.”
He also allegedly called Bell a “homo.” Bell and his pals returned fire by making fun of the suspect’s baldness, cops said.
That’s when things exploded.
Hayes told cops that Ford shoved him and Calvert and then clocked Bell in the face.
“Die of AIDS, you fucking queers,” Ford allegedly yelled at the trio before going back inside the Ninth Ave. bar.
Police responded but did not take a report, the victims said. That complaint is now the subject of an NYPD Internal Affairs investigation.
The Hate Crimes Task Force was assigned to the case and eventually identified Ford as the suspect and learned he was assigned to an Air Force base five hours outside London.
A NYPD Intelligence Division detective who is stationed in London drove to the base and interviewed Ford, who admitted he was at the scene but insisted his alleged victims started the fight, a source said.
Surveillance video, however, shows Ford attacking them, the source told the Daily News.
In an added twist to the case, the NYPD and Manhattan prosecutor’s office, after consulting the three gay victims, have agreed to let the U.S. military try Ford and dole out any punishment if he is found guilty in the attack, sources told The News.
Ford has not been formally charged.
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, who has been involved in pressing for a full investigation, called the latest news in the case a “very helpful development.”
And City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said the planned prosecution “sends a strong message” that hate crimes won’t be tolerated.
from The New York Daily News