ROCK HILL, S.C. — Arthur Hill moved to Fort Mill from New York with his family five months ago and said he never expected to encounter racism like he did Tuesday.
"I could have been killed. I realize that," Hill said.
Hill went to a Rock Hill barber shop on Celanese Road and asked for a haircut. He said owner Larry Thomas was standing there with a gun in his hand when he refused to cut his hair.
"He said, 'We don't cut black hair,'" Hill said. "He was holding a gun at his side. It scared me."
Hill quickly left and called sheriff's deputies, who charged Thomas with pointing and presenting a firearm.
Randy Holmes saw the story on the wsoctv.com and remembered a similar incident happened to him at the same barber five years ago.
He asked Thomas if he'd cut his son's hair, and Thomas reportedly told him, "We're not interested."
Holmes walked out, stunned.
“I was shocked more than anything that somebody like that could have a business that serves the public," Holmes said.
However, Thomas's girlfriend, Jasmine Patterson, said Thomas is severely autistic and struggles to express himself clearly.
Patterson said this same issue has had other customers thinking Thomas was a racist but she said he's not.
"He's a nice person. He would do anything for anybody," she said.
Late Wednesday, Thomas was released from jail. He said he never intended to scare anyone but said Hill got in his face, and he felt threatened.
Thomas also told Channel 9 there's a reason he doesn't cut African-Americans' hair.
"I'm not good enough to cut it. I don't cut women's hair anymore either. It takes a skill I don't have," he said.
Thomas said he does keep a gun on his counter for protection but would not threaten anyone with it.
"Something like this has never happened before," Thomas said.
Deputies told Channel 9 they found reports on Thomas dating back to 2007 showing he's refused service to blacks, whites, Asians, Hispanics, children and a disabled veteran once complained about him.
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