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The plot thickens in Savannah

Police in Savannah are now saying that the attack by five soldiers on a gay man at Blaine’s Back Door Bar was not a hate crime, despite the bold statement by one of the assailants, Sidney Swift, who admitted proudly: “Yes, I beat that mother-fucking faggot up.”

The victim, David Bennett, checked himself out of the hospital and has disappeared — he has felony warrants on him in three states. (WTOC):

The suspects in a weekend beating case sit in a Chatham County jail cell, but the victim is now missing. The attack happened in front of Blaine’s Back Door Bar in Savannah early Saturday morning. Police say witnesses watched five men–all Fort Stewart soldiers–chasing down and beating on a man in the street.

That man, David Bennett, was taken to a local hospital for treatment. Now officers say Bennett checked himself out of the hospital and hasn’t been seen since.

“He signed himself out of the hospital, yet to be interviewed by investigators, so it’s going to be a hard case,” said Capt. Bob Merriman with the Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department. “With the preliminary hearing coming up, if he doesn’t show up before, I don’t know if we’d be able to go forward or not.”

In another story, one of the soldiers is saying Bennett stole his wallet, which then led to the five-on-one beat down. (WSAV):

Despite several published reports police say they do not believe the attack was based on the man’s sexual orientation.

…Police said the assault ended at a bar on Perry Lane early Sunday morning. They said one of the suspects said the victim had taken his wallet when the fight began. Police said the suspects had been buying the victim drinks at another bar earlier that night.

Dyana Bagby at the Washington Blade adds more detail, giving the story even more twists and turns, with alcohol playing a role on all sides.

The Savannah Morning News reported March 6 that Bennett was leaving Blaine’s Back Door Bar, a gay bar located at 13 East Perry Lane, when the soldiers attacked him.

But Lt. Mike Wilkins, spokesperson for the police department, said the incident started at a nearby bar, McDonough’s Restaurant & Lounge, and Bennett was chased to Blaine’s, where he had been earlier in the evening. McDonough’s, located at 21 East McDonough St., is not a gay bar.

Allen Craighead, a bartender at Blaine’s, said that Bennett is openly bisexual and frequently visits the gay bar. Bennett was asked to leave Blaine’s at about midnight on March 4 because he was becoming a nuisance to other customers by “hitting them up for drinks,” said Craighead, who was working that night.

…Joey Holliday, a bartender at McDonough’s, was at McDonough’s March 4 and said the five soldiers who were arrested were very drunk and disruptive, and they were asked to leave the bar that night. The Savannah police report states all the soldiers were “very intoxicated and had a extreme odor of alcoholic beverages coming from them.”

Earlier post on the story is here.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding