• Sex offenders say they were 'just having lunch' prior to arrest near Memphis McDonald's playground


    MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Two violent registered sex offenders were arrested Saturday near a Memphis McDonald's. 

    According to a police report, around 4 p.m. Saturday a manager at the McDonald's located in the 3300 block of Austin Peay Highway called the police.

    The manager said she believed a registered sex offender was sitting next to the indoor playground at McDonald's staring at children who were playing. 

    She told officers the registered sex offender, Robert Lee Collier, was caught on camera the previous day inside the playground area. 

    When officers arrived at the McDonald's, Collier and another known sex offender, Morris Johnson, were both sitting next to the indoor playground where approximately three children were actively playing. 

    Collier and Johnson were arrested for being within 1,000 feet of a playground where children were present. Both men were transported to the Felony Response Bureau. 

    Collier, however, told FOX13 he was “just having lunch with a friend” when the police were called.

    “I did not consider that to be an area that I wasn’t supposed to be in, it being a public restaurant,” said Collier. 

    After his court appearance Monday, Collier told FOX13 he was not staring at the children as they played, but rather he was staring at the food he was eating.

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    This isn't the first time Collier has been arrested. Back in May of 2018, he was arrested for exposing himself to an 11-year-old child at the Wolfchase Galleria.

    RELATED: Man exposes himself to 11-year-old in mall bathroom, police say

    Police told FOX13 the child was trying to leave the bathroom when Collier allegedly grabbed his arm and neck. Officers said he pulled down his pants and exposed himself to the victim.

    MPD said his mother heard him and responded.

    According to the Tennessee Sexual Offender registry, Collier was placed on the registry for criminal attempt to commit aggravated sexual battery on May 19, 2018. 

    Morris Johnson was also placed on the registry for criminal attempt to commit aggravated sexual battery on February 15, 2003.

    Both suspects have bonded out of jail with a $3,000 bond.

    Collier said he was falsely accused in 2018, and he is being falsely accused again now.

    “I clearly don’t have a problem. I’ve been falsely accused of this situation. I’m fighting this to the end: not guilty,” he said. “There’s no proof of this, I just want justice.”

    According to Collier, Johnson has been his best friend for seven years. Johnson was placed on the sex offender registry for criminal attempt to commit aggravated sexual battery in 2003.

    FOX13 reached out to the judge working on the case to ask how Collier – a violent registered sex offender – could have been booked into jail while on probation and released on a $3,000 bond.

    The judge has not yet responded.

    Kris Crim, the prevention director at the Memphis Childhood Advocacy Center told FOX13 about how to protect your children from sexual abuse in public places.

    “The best way for parents to protect their children from sexual abuse is to be armed with knowledge. The Stewards of Children training offered by the Memphis Child Advocacy Center teaches adults how to prevent, recognize, and react responsibly to child sexual abuse.

    Parents learn how to recognize red flag behavior, deter predators, and talk with their kids about sexual boundaries. Over 24,000 Shelby County adults have been trained since 2011.”

    Anyone interested in taking the class can learn more here.

    The advocacy center also provided these tips on how to minimize the risk of children being sexually abused. They include understanding grooming behavior by predators, talking to your children, monitoring your child’s internet use, and understanding what to expect of your child’s sexual development.

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