Five People Charged with Hate Crime After Assaulting Black Pastor in Virginia

Written by on June 15, 2020

Law enforcement officials in Shenandoah County, VA, arrested five people for their involvement in an assault against a black pastor.

On June 1, Pastor Leon McCray with Lighthouse Church & Marketplace Ministries International noticed two people dragging a refrigerator toward a dumpster at an apartment complex that he owns, WHSV-TV reports.

"I asked them to leave the property…that they were trespassing and they got very angry and irate," McCray, 61, said.

Despite their anger, the two left but returned to the property with three more people. The pastor said the group assaulted him, so he drew his gun for protection and called police.

"They were all up on me at the same time, threatening to kill me and used all types of racial slurs. It got to the point where this is really getting really, really bad," McCray said. "I couldn't leave, I couldn't do anything, and with the threats, I felt to save my life, I had to draw my gun."

When police arrived, only one talked with McCray but didn't ask for his side of the story. They took his weapon and arrested him for brandishing a firearm.

"How humiliating, how dehumanizing…to look at this mob of individuals cheering on the sidelines waving as I was carted off to go to jail," he told The Northern Virginia Daily. "And they took my weapon, and in front of this mob of five white individuals that were still threatening my life."

Following the arrest, Shenandoah County Sheriff Timothy Carter met with the pastor and determined that the charge against McCray "was certainly not appropriate."

The Virginia code indicates that the charge does "not apply to any person engaged in excusable or justifiable self-defense."

"I told Mr. McCray, if I were faced with similar circumstances, I would have probably done the same thing," Sheriff Carter said during a recorded press conference.

"I want the people of Shenandoah County to know I and the Sheriff's Office staff appreciate and care about the minority communities, and especially our Black community, in Shenandoah County," Carter added. "Also, I continue to support and recognize the importance of your Constitutional rights, especially your 2nd Amendment right to protect yourself and your family."

The sheriff invited McCray to speak with his staff and present his point of view on racial equality.

"Mr. McCray did agree to do that at some future point. We did make that agreement," Carter said. "Because of all that's going on in the nation, I think talking and listening is critical."

McCray said he'd like to see change within the sheriff's office and he believes Carter is beginning to take steps toward that.

All five of the people involved in the incident were charged with assault by a mob and hate crime. The group is being held without bond as the sheriff's office continues its investigation. They are due to appear in court next month.

Sheriff Carter Arrest Announcements

— SCSO (@ShenCoSheriffVA) June 12, 2020

"My black life didn't matter. But I'm here to tell you, as a Kingdom son, my black life does matter," McCray concluded.

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