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Tenn. Health Store Owner Accused of Filing False Report

by Jason St. Amand
National News Editor
Monday Dec 30, 2013

The owner of a health store in Tennessee who said he was beaten and robbed because he is gay has been charged with filing a false report, the Paris Post-Intelligencer reports.

Joe Williams, 32, claimed three men viciously beat him on Nov. 20 in his Healthy Thyme health food store in Paris, Tenn., (about 145 miles northwest of Memphis), in what some called a hate crime. The attackers allegedly wrote a "three-letter homophobic slur" across his head and Williams said the men stole $1,500 from him before setting his store on fire, causing about $5,500 in damages.

But the Paris Post-Intelligencer is now reporting Williams was arrested on Dec. 20 after local authorities discovered inconsistencies in his stories. They say Williams did not mention specific facts known to investigators.

"We've not been able to verify or dispel any of the statements made about the actual robbery or fire," Paris Police Sgt. Ricky Watson told the newspaper. "We're looking into Mr. Williams, and we're looking into whether it did or did not happen."

At the time of the incident, Williams told police that a man came through the employee entrance of Healthy Thyme, asking for help for his sick daughter. When the employee went to get a product for the man, the attacker asked about his sexual preference before beating him. According to the police report, two other men joined in on the attack, and both were wearing ski masks and black jackets.

The employee also reported he was called derogatory names while he was attacked. Williams said he was attacked until he lost consciousness and when he awoke he saw the men pouring gasoline near the front of the store. Police later found a milk jug near the cash register that contained gas. He also a man came in earlier the same day and asked him about his sexual preference, saying that he could not shop there if he is gay.


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