Military Hero Admits to Gay Bashing, Is Stripped of Rank

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Thursday February 4, 2010

A U.S. Air Force officer has admitted to beating a gay man outside a Manhattan bar, and lost his rank for his role in the incident.

The fracas unfolded last Sept. 26, when radio personality Blake Hayes and two friends encountered Air Force Staff St. Benjamin Ford outside McCoy's bar, a straight establishment located in gay enclave Hell's Kitchen. According to Hayes, who is a DJ on radio station WPLJ, Ford called one of the DJ's friends, Alec Bell, a "homo." The three men rejoined by making fun of Ford for his thinning hair. At that point, Hayes said, Ford hauled off and punched Hayes, screaming, "Die of AIDS, you fucking queers!"

New York newspaper The New York Daily News reported on Feb. 4 that Ford had been traced to a U.S. Air Force base near London, and that he responded to charges by admitting to the attack rather than face a court-martial. Ford, a Bronze Star medal recipient, lost a month's pay and his rank, the story said.

The New York Police Department also came in for a complaint from Hayes and his friends, who claimed that officers responding to the assault seemed disinterested and made no attempt to apprehend Ford at the scene.

"The police never wrote down a thing," Hayes told the media. "They never looked at ID from him--or any of us. They didn't have any notepads out." Hayes also alleged that the police tried to discourage him and his two companions from filing a report on the assault.

"Once they got there, they had already made up their minds they weren't going to deal with it," Hayes said. New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn intervened in the case, which then received attention from the police and culminated in Ford's punishment.

Said Quinn, ""One of the most significant tools that have helped us to combat hate crimes here in New York City is having a strong police response to incidents when they occur.

"There was a time in our city when victims of hate crimes did not feel that the police were their allies," Quinn added. "Any time a crime of this nature occurs, victims need to know they will be taken seriously."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.