A Paris, Tenn., business owner told police that during an alleged robbery, assailants beat him while calling him anti-gay slurs and then wrote one on his forehead with a permanent marker before he was knocked unconscious.
WBBJ-TV in Jackson, Tenn., reported on Thursday that 32-year-old Joe Williams, the owner of Healthy Thyme, was robbed of $1,500, and the store was set on fire. Williams told The Paris Post-Intelligencer that a man had entered the store earlier that day and asked him about his “sexual preference.” The man told Williams he couldn’t shop at the store if the owner was gay.
Williams told police a man later entered the store through the employee’s entrance, asking for something to help his sick daughter, according to the Post-Intelligencer. Williams recommended a product, and when he reached down to get it, the man allegedly began beating him.
Paris Police Sgt. Michael Ramos reported Williams had a “homosexual word written in black across his forehead.”
The police report also indicates two other men, both wearing ski masks and black jackets, joined the first man in hitting Williams. Williams told officers he was hit until he was unconscious, and when he woke up, he saw the men pouring gasoline near the front of the building.
Williams barricaded himself in the store’s office and then went next door to call police after he saw the robbers leave the business.
“I just fear for my life,” Williams said. “I’m to the point now where I’m worried to even go outside. I live my life as a gay man and wasn’t ashamed of it, and I just feel that I was targeted for that for that reason.”