Local authorities in Virginia arrested five individuals late last week in connection to an alleged hate crime and assault reported earlier this month, during which pastor Leon McCray says a group attacked and threatened to kill him. When police initially responded to the June 1 incident, McCray was taken into custody himself for brandishing a firearm.
McCray described the incident in a June 7 sermon, explaining that the group became violent after he asked them not to dispose of a refrigerator on his property. He recalled them “telling me that my black life, and that Black Lives Matter stuff…they don’t give a darn about that stuff in this county, and they could care less, and ‘We will kill you.'”
Earlier during the sermon, McCray spoke about Minneapolis resident George Floyd’s death in police custody at the end of May, which prompted widespread Black Lives Matter demonstrations protesting police abuse and systemic racism.
In a statement released on Friday, Shenandoah County Sheriff Timothy Carter said he spoke to the pastor two days later and apologized for the erroneous arrest and mishandling until that point. He also confirmed charges against McCray were dropped. Virginia issues permits that allow individuals to carry concealed firearms unless a particular jurisdiction prohibits them. McCray previously described his weapon, which he said saved his life, as “legally concealed” while recounting the altercation during the sermon.
“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. Actually, as I told Mr. McCray, if I were faced with similar circumstances, I would have probably done the same thing,” Carter wrote in Friday’s statement. “I have apologized to Mr. McCray, and I appreciate his patience as I have worked through these matters.”
Carter said the sheriff’s office acquired warrants for elevated charges against five people involved in the incident, who were arrested and being held without bond as of Friday. Shenandoah County residents Donny Salyers, Dennis Salyers, Farrah Saylers, Amanda Salyers and Christopher Sharp face multiple charges, including felony abduction, hate crime assault, assault by mob, battery and trespassing.
An administrative review of officers who responded to the alleged attack is also underway and two staff supervisors from the sheriff’s office were placed on unpaid leave, Carter’s statement added.
Newsweek reached out to the Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office for updates but did not receive a reply in time for publication.
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