Documents: Man in zombie makeup who protested nativity scene court case attacked in jail

CINCINNATI – A man arrested in zombie makeup while protesting a court case involving a Sycamore Township man’s zombie nativity scene was attacked in jail, records show.

Police said John Forest Thomer was holding a prop at the Hamilton County Courthouse in full undead makeup on Jan. 5 when officers arrested him. Later that same day, an inmate at the Hamilton County Justice Center punched Thomer multiple times, according to documents obtained by WCPO.

John Forest Thomer's mugshot

Records state inmate Alvin Palmer "exchanged words" with Thomer over use of a phone at the jail when "it appeared as if Thomar hung the phone up on Palmer."

Palmer then struck Thomer multiple times, prompting a jail staff member to call for backup, deputies said. Responding officers handcuffed both inmates.

"I got sucker-punched in jail," Thomer tweeted after his release Jan. 9. "This is real life."

Deputies said no force was used when breaking up the fight. The jail staff members said they locked Palmer in a different unit and a county vehicle took Thomer to a nearby medical center for treatment.


Before his arrest, Thomer was supporting his friend Jasen Dixon, who faces more than $4,000 in fines for nine zoning violations associated with a zombie nativity on his front yard.

The nativity captured national attention when Dixon added it outside his home on Vorhees Lane after Thanksgiving. It was the second year in a row he constructed the scene, which features a zombified baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

Dixon’s lawyers argued last week the case should be dismissed because Dixon fixed the nativity’s violations and the town never came by to see the changes.

Thomer in makeup after his arrest

“They don't have a case,” Dixon said. “It's a first amendment issue. I'm not worried about it."

Dixon said he initially applied for a building permit before erecting his zombie nativity scene this past holiday, but was denied.

On Dec. 2, Dixon’s Zombie nativity scene Facebook page posted a copy of a letter from Sycamore Township Zoning Administrator Harry Holbert informing him of the denial:

 


Holbert said the zoning violations against Dixon have nothing to do with religion. They involve the structure’s size, he said.

"This was never about the zombies," Holbert told WCPO in December. "(It’s) that the manger was 15-feet high."

Dixon said he removed the nativity scene’s roof after hearing the township’s issues and was told it could stay up without penalty. 

The zombie nativity scene

Thomer visited Dixon’s nativity scene in December and showed it off on his YouTube page:

WARNING: VIDEO CONTAINS GRAPHIC LANGUAGE:


Thomer also announced he would protest Dixon’s court hearing on Twitter Jan. 3, asking others to support him.

Police said Thomer was held in contempt of court after his protest and sentenced to three days in the Hamilton County Justice Center.

Thomer is no stranger to jail. A judge awarded him $25,000 in February of last year after he sued Cincinnati for charging him with disorderly conduct at Yeatman’s Cove Park in 2012.

He was detained again in May after officers said he stood on Fountain Square during Taste Of Cincinnati with a sign that read, “I’m a MOTHER F*****.” The officer cited him with disorderly conduct.

Dixon’s next hearing is set for Feb. 2. A judge will consider whether to dismiss the case or have it go to trial.

Dixon told WCPO last month he planned on 2015 being his last Christmas with the zombie nativity scene outside his home.

But that sentiment has changed.

“We’re doing it again next year,” he said. “Bigger and better.”

WCPO's Jason Law contributed to this report.

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