A gay couple in southern Ohio say their car was torched as part of an ongoing campaign of homophobic harassment by a neighbor, and now they fear for their lives.
One of the men, Nathan Paris, found the car burned last week when he met a reporter from Cincinnati TV station WKRC at the home, located near Sardinia in Brown County. “Oh, my God, it’s burnt,” Paris told the reporter, who was there to do a story on the previous harassment. “He burnt it.” A neighbor had previously turned the car upside down and fired shots at Paris and his partner, the station reports.
The couple had converted a shipping container on the two-acre property into a tiny home in 2012. They lived there for two years and had no problems with neighbors, Paris said. They then lived elsewhere for several years but returned to Brown County in February, and the harassment began soon afterward, he said.
A neighbor, calling to him from across a creek, “was saying ‘fag,’” Paris told the station. “I said, ‘Yeah, I’m a fag. You got a problem with it?’ And he just kept going and calling me ‘fag’ and ‘queer’ and ‘gay this’ and ‘gay that.’” That was the conversation at that point.”
Not long after, Paris found the car turned over, and he and his partner called the Brown County Sheriff’s Department. Deputies spoke to the neighbor they suspected, who denied flipping the car but complained that the gay couple had junk in their yard and lacked a septic system for the property. He also denied using slurs toward them. The couple called the sheriff again after the shooting incident, which was “terrifying,” Paris said, with bullets whizzing near their heads. At that point the man was arrested for drunken driving, but he has not been charged in connection with any interactions with the couple. His name was not included in the WKRC report. The station tried to reach him for comment but was unsuccessful.
Brown County Chief Deputy Chris Hodges characterized the incident as a neighborhood dispute. “Hopefully it ends with the neighbors learning how to get along with each other,” he told the station. “If it doesn’t and continues to escalate, it’s going to end up with someone getting criminally charged or possibly incarcerated.”