A Virginia sheriff apologized to a Black pastor who was arrested for trying to defend himself against a group of white people yelling threats and racial slurs.
The pastor described his experience to parishioners at Lighthouse Church & Marketplace Ministries International during a sermon on June 7. The incident occurred on June 1 when Leon K. McCray Sr. caught a man and woman trying to place a refrigerator in a dumpster on his property in Edinburgh, Virginia.
When he asked them to leave, the couple became “irate.” The man left and returned with three more people. McCray claimed the group was using racial slurs “telling me that my black life and the Black Lives Matter stuff, they don’t give a darn about that stuff in this county, and they could care less and ‘We would kill you.’”
McCray pulled his concealed handgun and called 911 for assistance. However, when Shenandoah County Sheriff’s deputies arrived, they arrested him for brandishing a weapon. He told the congregation he was “handcuffed in front of the mob.”
“I was not given the opportunity to tell what was going on,” he recalled. While McCray was being arrested, the group continued to threaten him and shout racial slurs.
The preacher believed the deputies assumed the worst of him and focused on “disarming a black male brandishing a gun against five white individuals” even though he was exercising his “Second Amendment right to defend myself against five attackers that tried to take my life.” McCray said he knows this treatment “would not be tolerated if I was white.”
“This was indeed the most humiliating, dehumanizing, damning and violating event of my life,” McCray added. “I’m a pastor, a decorated 24-year Air Force master sergeant veteran, no criminal record.”
Shenandoah County Sheriff Timothy Carter apologized for the error and announced two sheriff’s office supervisors were placed on unpaid administrative leave.
“Mr. McCray met with me on Wednesday the 3rd of June, and after talking with him about the incident, it was apparent to me that the charge of brandishing was certainly not appropriate,” the sheriff said in a statement. “As I told Mr. McCray, if I were faced with similar circumstances, I would have probably done the same thing.”
All five members of the group were arrested. Christopher Sharp, Donny Salyers, Farrah Salyers and Dennis Salyers were charged with felony abduction and two misdemeanors, assault by a mob and assault in a hate crime. Amanda Salyers was charged with misdemeanor assault by a mob and assault in a hate crime. All are being held without bond, The Associated Press reports.