A former NFL player was arrested after allegedly destroying his Gwinnett County business and spray-painting slurs on his walls to make it appear he was the victim of a racially motivated burglary.
Gwinnett police arrested Edawn Louis Coughman, 31, on charges of false report of a crime, insurance fraud and concealing a license plate.
About 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, officers were dispatched to a burglary call at the Create and Bake Restaurant and Coughman’s Creamery on Duluth Highway in unincorporated Lawrenceville, Gwinnett police spokeswoman Cpl. Michele Pihera said Friday in a news release.
The caller said a man driving a black Chevrolet pickup was inside the shop damaging the business.
Officers searched the area and spotted a truck leaving the shopping center, police said. Coughman was behind the wheel and officers noticed several televisions in the bed of the truck and inside the cab, Pihera said. The TVs were still attached to brackets and appeared to have been pulled off a wall, authorities said.
Officers learned Coughman was the owner of the business. Inside the shop, they found graffiti scrawled on walls and booth cushions.
“Officers saw racially motivated words, swastikas, and ‘MAGA,’” Pihera said. “Several booth cushions were sliced open. They also found broken mirrors, cut wires and a damaged video surveillance system. The smell of spray paint was very fresh. When officers touched it, the paint appeared wet.”
Coughman reportedly told police he noticed the damage earlier in the day. He called his insurance company to report the break-in, but not 911, according to police.
He was arrested after officers determined he wasn’t being honest about what happened, Pihera said.
On Thursday, police searched Coughman’s truck and found cans of black spray paint and a yellow crowbar that matched pry marks discovered on the back door of the business, police said.
“It appears as though Edawn conjured a premeditated plan to damage his own property, attempt to make it appear as a hate crime, file a claim with his insurance company, and sell off the undamaged appliances and electronics,” Pihera said.
Coughman, a former offensive tackle who attended Shaw University, played in the Canadian Football League before joining the NFL. He was signed by several teams during his four seasons in the league, but it appears he never made an active roster.
The former football player maintained his innocence during an interview with Channel 2 Action News, saying he plans to fight the charges.
“It’s unbelievable to me, man,” a tearful Coughman said. “It’s unbelievable how much stuff has happened to me. ... A good business is gone. I have nothing now.”
News of his arrest quickly went national, and Coughman was compared online to former “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett, who was accused of fabricating a hate-motivated attack in downtown Chicago earlier this year.
Coughman told Channel 2 he feels like it’s “disrespectful” being compared to the embattled actor.
His attorney, Jackie Patterson, said Coughman’s business had already been burglarized that night and that he was simply recovering some of his remaining items when he was stopped by police. Coughman also claimed a second business he owns was vandalized with black spray paint while he was in jail.
He is out on an $8,300 bond as he awaits future court dates in the case, Gwinnett jail records show.
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