By Christina Carrega
A Briarwood woman’s cellphone rang as she cradled her newborn baby in the hospital. It was her boyfriend Travis Ford, the baby’s dad, trying to talk with her one final time before he died — inside the same building.
To make it even worse, Ford was allegedly killed by the woman’s own father.
As his girlfriend recovered in the hospital on Jan. 24, Ford went back to his 139th Street apartment to tend to his 2-year-old daughter — who was watched by her maternal grandfather Marco Ortiz.
Ford entered the building and learned from a neighbor that Ortiz was spewing racial slurs throughout the neighborhood. Ford wanted to talk to Ortiz about it, according to a source familiar with the case.
“Marco has had bipolar and racist behavior the entire time I’ve known him,” said a close family friend who asked to remain anonymous. “He was known in the neighborhood to hang out in the park, chase kids with a bat and threaten children.”
When Ford confronted Ortiz about the derogatory remarks, the older man allegedly called Ford a racial slur, accused him of stealing and threatened to kick his entire family — including his own daughter — out of the home.
“Travis never had no violent tendencies. He was a great man, a leader. He would give the shirt off his back,” said Ford’s friend Jules Alcantara, 31. “He always looked out for his friends and family. His friends become family.”
Ford, who studied music production and vocals at Touro College, called his longtime girlfriend to alert her about her father’s threat. The recovering new mother then called Ortiz to try and defuse the situation, but he did not pick up the phone.
“When she called Travis back, she heard Travis say, ‘Call 911. He is stabbing me,’” the heartbroken friend told Eagle over the phone on Tuesday.
Ford was taken to Jamaica Hospital Medical Center where pronounced dead. Funeral arrangements are scheduled for next Monday, but the location is yet to be announced.
Close friends set up a GoFundMe page with a goal of raising $30,000 to provide “short-term healing” for Ford’s family. As of Tuesday afternoon, the campaign had raised nearly $14,000 from almost 150 donors.
“We are trying to raise money for his family, for his children that he hasn't even had a chance to hold,” the friend said as he broke down into tears on the phone.
Ortiz, 45, told detectives at the 107th Precinct that Ford was intoxicated and wanted to engage in the racial discussion, but he wasn’t interested.
“This is a sad and disturbing case. This was a senseless act of violence that has undoubtedly torn a family apart,” said Queens County District Attorney Richard A. Brown in a statement released on Monday. “The defendant now faces prison time for his alleged actions.”
Ortiz, who is a registered level three sex offender, claimed he feared for his life during the escalating conversation and pulled out a pocket knife for protection.
“Travis was a rock in the community, peaceful, delightful,” said Ford’s friend of 22 years. “Yes, he had his battles, but never at any moment where he became a detriment to his wife and children, nothing criminal or malicious intent. As an adult he has been a upstanding citizen.”
Ortiz is charged with second-degree murder, first-degree manslaughter and criminal possession of a weapon. If convicted, he faces up to 25 years to life in prison.