Popular Thru-Hiker Hotspot in Hot Water after Anti-Semitic Rant Caught on Video

Hey Joe’s, a restaurant in the Appalachian Trail town of Damascus in southwest Virginia, is reportedly closing its doors after the owner and his brother were caught on film on Monday, October 23 hurling anti-Semitic remarks at a man in the street.

“You should get in a f*cking Jewish oven and die like your ancestors,” one of the men can be heard saying on the video.

The victim has been identified as Appalachian Trail thru-hiker Craig Johnston.

WARNING: The video below contains violence and highly offensive racial slurs. 

Immediately after the racist remarks are made, the owner, wearing a striped shirt in the video, appears to strike Johnston. The two then turn and walk away, continuing to spout racial insults while threatening more physical harm to the individual filming.

“You better be careful when you’re walking around,” one of the men can be heard saying, as they leave the scene.

According to a statement from the Damascus Police Department, the two men—Joseph E. Killian and Henry Oscar Killian II—have been arrested and are being held without bond at the Abingdon Regional Jail.

Damascus Mayor Jack McCrady posted a statement on his personal Facebook page which can be read in full below.

“Seems like our wonderful Town has yet again been placed under the scrutiny of bad press. As with most issues, there is controversy. For those who viewed the hideous anti-Semitic video, nothing can justify the statements, it certainly doesn’t represent our community. The individual assaulted isn’t completely innocent of any wrong doing either. By his own admission, he went there in an attempt to purchase illegal drugs, the transaction soured inside the business and then spilled out into the streets, resulting in the videoed portion of the altercation. The victim didn’t press charges, but instead chose to vent on social media. The Town has pressed charges, and the two men from the business are being held in the regional jail without bond. Nothing can justify the hideous statements made by those involved. This behavior does not represent Damascus or our citizens. The business was due to permanently close at the end of the month, but due to current circumstances is now closed.”

McCrady later told the Bristol Herald that the men are not from Damascus originally but moved to the area from Charlotte, North Carolina.

“There is no justifying this behavior,” said fellow Damascus business owner, Joe Bridges. “I know that it is not accepted in any way by the town, and the community immediately railed against them and their actions. I’m a Jewish resident of Damascus, and I haven’t experienced any kind of antisemitism since moving here in July of 2015. I also own and operate a bakery/juice bar around the corner from Hey Joe’s.”

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy, which administers stewardship of the trail along its 2,200-mile path, has issued a statement on Twitter.

Damascus, Virginia is a well-loved outdoor mecca in southwest Virginia which serves as a popular hub for several trails including the popular 34+mile Virginia Creeper, the Iron Mountain trail, Trans-America National Bicycle Trail, and of course the famous Appalachian Trail which literally lies atop the town’s Main Street.  It has long been regarded as one of the most welcoming communities along the famous footpath and celebrates both the trail and the thousands of annual thru-hikers during its popular Trail Days festival which has been held every May for over 30 years.

We attempted to contact Hey Joe’s for comment, but the number that the restaurant lists on Facebook has been disconnected.

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