WATCH: Gay Owner of Tenn. Health Store Assaulted in Possible Hate Crime
A gay man who owns a health food store in Paris, Tenn., was robbed, beaten unconscious, had an antigay slur written on his forehead, and then awoke to see three unidentified assailants try to light his store on fire as he closed the business Wednesday evening.
"I just fear for my life," Joe Williams, the 32-year-old victim, told Nashville station WZTV. "I'm to the point now where I'm worried to even go outside … I live my life as a gay man and wasn't ashamed of it, and I just feel that I was targeted for that for that reason."
Joe Williams owns Healthy Thyme, a health-food store that has served Paris for 15 years, according to WZTV. As he was preparing to close his business Wednesday night, he says, three masked men entered the store and began beating him and calling him antigay slurs. Williams was knocked unconscious as the assailants stole $1,500 from the cash register and wrote the word "fag" on his forehead. As he regained consciousness, Williams said he saw two of the men pouring gasoline on the ground by the store's entrance before they lit the store ablaze.
The fire caused more than $5,000 worth of damage to the store, according to the Paris Post-Intelligencer.