When Aurelio V. Diaz showed up to Mansfield’s Central Park on the evening of Friday, August 6th, he thought it would be a quick hour of work setting up a table on behalf of his nonprofit employer for the following day’s Mansfield Pride.
Then things quickly took a turn.
“Me and my co-worker weren’t even there two minutes when a man approached us,” said Diaz. “He asked, ‘Are you guys gay?’ and things escalated from there. He started accusing us of trying to convert kids to being gay.”
Diaz, a candidate for Mansfield City Council, said he tried to deescalate the situation and asked the man if he wanted to sit down at the table to talk. The man replied with an antigay slur.
“He responded, ‘Shut up, faggot’ and ‘You guys need to die,'” said Diaz. “It’s the kind of antigay stuff you see in videos. Not stuff you experience.”
Diaz said the man seemed focused on his co-worker: a 21-year-old male with dyed-blue hair. As the man began moving towards them, Diaz put himself in front of his younger co-worker and the situation turned physical.
“He hit me, and as he was coming at me again, I hit him back,” said Diaz. “Then we were on the ground hitting each other. When we got up, he lunged and hit my co-worker which then resulted in me getting back on him. Then he lunged for another person and I got in the way and got hit in the eye.”
When the Mansfield Police arrived, they spoke with Diaz who explained what had happened, the antigay slurs that preceded the altercation, and Diaz’ putting himself in harm’s way to protect his coworker.
Police then approached the other man, who was later identified as 26-year-old Curtis Beverly Jr. Police arrested and incarcerated Beverly for intoxication and disorderly conduct.
The police returned to Diaz and gave him a summons for disorderly conduct. Diaz was shocked.
“I gave the police my statement and explained all of the things that led up to the fight, but all they said was, ‘The gentleman was bleeding. Did you hit him?'” said Diaz. “I explained, ‘Of course I hit him. He was attacking us.’ And the police said, ‘Well then you’re getting charged too, because you put your hands on him.'”
In the police report obtained by The Buckeye Flame, Officer R. Reedy made no mention of the extreme antigay speech that was used by Beverly, and under the category of “Suspect Hate / Bias Motivated,” the officer marked “NO BIAS/NOT APPLICABLE.”
The Mansfield Police Department did not respond to The Buckeye Flame’s multiple requests for comment. This article will be updated with a response if one is received.
“I don’t know if the cop was new or not,” said Diaz. “He was totally dismissive. He didn’t interview my colleague who was hit. He didn’t interview anyone else. He gave me my ticket, so now I have to go to court.”
On Thursday, August 12, the charges against Diaz were dropped after daily conversations with the chief of police and the Mansfield law director.
“It’s been a crazy ordeal and my concern is, what if i didn’t know the city officials I’m communicating with? I would be stuck with a bogus and inaccurate police report, a charge, and no job,” said Diaz.
Diaz now puts the altercation into a broader context, saying that Beverly’s actions represented a growing trend of health and safety issues in Mansfield. Beverly was identified in the police report as a “transient.”
“There are a lot of people in the same situation in downtown Mansfield,” said Diaz. “Our shelters are at full capacity, and there’s so much we need to do to address mental health, erratic behavior, and open drug use downtown.”
Despite the incident, Diaz returned to the same table to give out information and safer sex supplies at Mansfield Pride. Although he was still shaken by hearing the word “faggot”—which he said brought him right back to 6th grade—and how the altercation became physical, he said it was important that his participation in Pride remained unaffected.
“Pride brought out our small gay community but also all the allies we have,” said Diaz. “Despite what happened the night before, it really was a great Pride.”