GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. (WGCL/CNN) – Police in Gwinnett County said they caught the man who ransacked two businesses and vandalized them with racist graffiti.
Their suspect is Edawn Coughman, the 31-year-old former NFL player who owns both businesses.
When police showed up to the Create & Bake pizza restaurant and the adjoining Coughman’s Creamery on Wednesday, they thought there was a robbery in progress.
The businesses were trashed inside, and racial slurs were spray-painted on the walls.
Police said a witness told them a black Chevy Silverado with no license plate had left the property.
Officers tracked down Coughman, saying they found him sitting in a truck with a hoodie and gloves on, with a bed full of newly unmounted televisions behind him.
"He said that 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 Gwinnett County Police.
Authorities said Coughman hadn’t called police, but instead told them he’d called his insurance company about the alleged burglary.
"The license plate was inside the truck. [A search of the truck] also revealed the fact that there were two cans of spray paint and also a yellow crowbar,” Pihera said.
“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."
Police said Coughman told them 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," Pihera said.
WGCL reports that police said Coughman faked the hate crime and burglary to collect insurance money and to sell off the electronics found in his truck.
"This diminishes those cases where we have true victims of hate crimes, so we wanted to make sure we got in front of this to explain to the community that this was not a hate crime,” Pihera said. “We believe that Mr. Coughman is responsible for all of the vandalism inside the business."
Coughman, who was signed with several NFL teams from 2012 to 2016, is now facing charges of insurance fraud, false report of a crime and concealing a license plate.