Doubts are beginning to swirl around the account of a gay Atlanta man who said he was attacked, pulled from his wheelchair and beaten in Midtown last week.
Christopher Coleman – a 42-year-old gay Christian, life coach, author and motivational speaker with cerebral palsy – went public with details of the April 15 incident during an interview on Thursday with WSB. The incident left Coleman with visible bruises on his left side and injuries that were treated at Grady Memorial Hospital, according to an incident report from Atlanta police.
Coleman told Atlanta police and WSB that two men approached him from behind about 10:10 p.m. as he returned home alone after dinner near the intersection of 10th Street and Piedmont Avenue.
“I heard two guys running up behind me,” Coleman told WSB. “They grabbed me and pulled me out my wheelchair and they began to kick me a couple of times calling me some pretty bad names.”
“What happened in their lives that would make them want to do something like that?” he added.
Coleman told WSB that before his attackers fled, they left behind a printed note that contained gay and racial slurs (image below). But the note, provided to WSB, was not mentioned in the Atlanta police incident report. It's also not clear why Coleman didn't seek help from the fire station on 10th Street where he said the attack took place. He instead traveled around the block to Joe's on Juniper where he met with police officers.
Coleman told Atlanta police that he couldn't describe his attackers but their voices sounded familiar, according to an incident report. The men did not rob Coleman but he did tell police that his jacket and shoes came off during the incident. Several officers searched the area but could not find Coleman's belongings. Police also said that there were no nearby security cameras that recorded the assault.
On Friday, facing an onslaught of media inquiries about the possible hate crime, Atlanta police released a statement that urged caution about the veracity of Coleman's allegations:
We are handling many request related to the alleged attack on Christopher Coleman and his allegations that he was attacked by the KKK. We are still in the early stages of this investigation. We cannot confirm his allegations at this time. It has been reported to APD that Mr. Coleman has reported the same and similar allegations to other metro police departments over the last decade.
It was not clear if the department's LGBT liaisons were notified of the incident or were involved in the investigation, an Atlanta police spokesperson said Friday. Agency policy dictates that its LGBT liaisons are to be notified in cases involving LGBT victims.
Coleman and a representative that spoke to the AJC on his behalf could not be reached for comment on Friday.
On Friday morning, Coleman shared to his Facebook page a U.S News & World Report story that detailed government data showing that people with disabilities are more likely to victims of violent crimes. He added this comment to the post:
WAKE UP AMERICA!
People with disabilities are not excluded from crime. It is not reported as much due to the fear of no one believing it, self-blame, feelings of unworthiness, shame or the offender is a friend or family member.
Coleman is CEO of Unconfined Life Institute. The organization's website includes a detailed biography about him and his speaking and life coaching services. The site also includes a store where his book “No Longer Confined” can be purchased and donations can be made.