Lawrenceville, GA – A one-time National Football League (NFL) player has been charged destroying his own businesses to fake a hate crime.
The incident began at about 9:30 p.m. last Wednesday when a maintenance worker at the shopping plaza reported a burglary in progress at Create and Bake Restaurant and Coughman’s Creamery, WSBT reported.
The maintenance worker reported having seen a black pickup truck with no license plate leaving the scene.
Gwinnett County police officers who were already in the area quickly spotted the truck and stopped it, WSBT reported.
Officer expected to find a burglary suspect in the truck, but instead they encountered former NFL player Edawn Coughman, the owner of the two businesses that had been vandalized.
"That's when they asked him about it, and he said he's the owner of the business," Gwinnett County Police Corporal Michele Pihera told WSBT.
Police then searched Coughman’s truck and said they found several flat-screen TVs in the bed with the brackets still attached and drywall hanging from the brackets as if they had been torn off of a wall.
Officers also found that Coughman had black spray paint on his hands that appeared to match “racially motivated” graffiti that was left inside the restaurant by whomever broke in, WSBT reported.
Police said the words “monkey” and “n----r” had been painted alongside “MAGA,” the acronym for President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan, Make America Great Again.
WSBT reports showed that swastikas and other slurs had been painted on the walls of both businesses.
Police also recovered cans of black spray paint from Coughman’s truck.
Coughman told police that the burglary had happened earlier in the day and that he had already contacted his insurance company, although he had failed to call the police, WSBT reported.
“He had reported this incident to his insurance company prior to officers conducting that first pull-over," Cpl. Pihera said. "He was attempting to leave that shopping center when our officers conducted that felony stop. Everything lined up for this perfect arrest."
Police don’t know why the former professional football player trashed his own businesses.
"We don't know if it was financial motivation or what the case is," Cpl. Pihera told WSBT.
Coughman was arrested and charged with insurance fraud, making a false report, and a tag violation for not having a license plate on his vehicle.
He bonded out of jail but police said he could face additional charges in connection with the incident, WSBT reported.
Coughman never played in an NFL game but was on the practice squads of several different NFL teams before he was cut by the Arizona Cardinals in 2016.