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Former NFL player arrested for staging hate crime, facing charges

DULUTH, Ga. -- Police in suburban Atlanta caught the man they say ransacked two local businesses and vandalized them with racist graffiti, WGCL reports.

Their suspect is the 31-year-old former NFL player who owns both businesses.

When police showed up to the Create & Bake Pizzeria and the adjoining Coughman's Creamery, they thought there was a robbery in progress.

"We were just in the car. We passed by and then we just saw a bunch of police cars" said Emma Cortez, a shopper.

The two restaurants were trashed inside.

Officers found racial slurs spray painted on the walls, swastikas and MAGA.

Officers tracked down the business owner, 31 year old Edawn Coughman, a former NFL player.

He was sitting in a truck with a hoodie and gloves on.

Behind him was a bed full of newly unmounted flat screen televisions.

"He said he was the victim of a burglary that occurred earlier in the day and that he was just coming back to the business to retrieve those items," said Cpl. Michele Pihera with the Gwinnett County police.

Police say Coughman hadn't called police.

Instead, he'd called his insurance company about alleged burglary.

"The license plate was inside the truck. It also revealed that there were two cans of spray paint and also a yellow crowbar. The yellow crowbar is important because the back of the business had some yellow pry marks on the back door indicating that somebody had tried to use it to break into the back door," Cpl. Pihera said.

Coughman told police the vandalism happened earlier in the day, but the smell of fresh paint told a different story.

"If the burglary and vandalism had occurred earlier in the day like he told us, that paint would not still be wet," Cpl. Pahera said.

Police say the entire hate crime and burglary was fake.

"This diminishes those cases where we have true victims of hate crimes, so we wanted to make sure that we got in front of this to explain to the community that this was not a hate crime," Cpl. Pahera said. "We believe that Mr. Coughman is responsible for all of the vandalism inside the businesses."

He is now facing charges of insurance fraud, false report of a crime and concealing a license plate.

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