An African American man in Tennessee was arrested for allegedly posing as a local white business owner and writing hoax letters pretending the businessman was a racist who was planning attacks on local black leaders.
Police in Knoxville, Tennessee, arrested Justin Lamar Coleman after they say he launched a campaign to discredit businessman Jeff McCown, the white owner of McCown Body Shop in Knoxville, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel.
Coleman came to the attention of police after it was reported by recipients that he sent letters to several African American leaders in the area, including Daryl Arnold, the pastor of Overcoming Believers Church in East Knoxville. Police said the letters contained racial epithets and threats of bodily harm toward the African American leaders and were signed as if the body shop owner had written them.
One of the letters sent to Pastor Arnold’s daughter that was revealed by prosecutors read, “Tell your daddy Daryl to come to my paint and body shop call (sic) Jeff McCown. I wrote this letter (racial slur) … I hate (expletive, racial slur). I’m coming to your house to rape you. I’m going to get a chainsaw and cut your legs off and then cut your head off, black nasty (slur).”
The letter went on to threaten to castrate Pastor Arnold.
The hoax letter concluded saying, “I am a very racist white man and with Mr. Trump in the White House being the Prisdent (sic) white people going to take over the world.”
It was signed as if the body shop owner had written it.
Prosecutors also said there were other such letters allegedly sent by Coleman. Indeed, one was even sent to business owner McCown warning him that someone was going to kill him and burn his house down.
Prosecutors say their investigation found that the letter writing campaign began over a confrontation Coleman had with McCown when Coleman drove over the grass in front of the body shop owner’s business back in 2010. A verbal altercation resulted after Coleman destroyed the landscaping with his truck.
Coleman tried to charge the businessman with assault and for throwing rocks at his truck during the incident. Police investigated the 2010 accusations, but no proof was found to substantiate Coleman’s claims, and no charges were filed.
In 2015 Coleman launched several social media attacks on McCown’s business, but the body shop owner ignored them. When Coleman realized the social media attack had no impact, he began to send the hoax letters to African American leaders, posing as a racist McCown.
After pleading guilty, Coleman was placed under house arrest pending a hearing date. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Kolman opposed the lenient treatment, saying that the suspect posed a danger to the community. U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Guyton also ordered Coleman to receive mental health treatment after testimony revealed Coleman had past mental issues.
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