A Virginia sheriff has apologized to a black pastor who was arrested after he pulled a gun in self-defense on a small group of people who had been threatening him.
When 61-year-old Leon McCray asked two unauthorized individuals who were trying to dump a refrigerator on his property to leave, they became upset. One person verbally attacked him while the other went to get three more people.
The group of five then attacked him verbally and physically, using racial slurs. They reportedly told him that his black life doesn’t matter and said they would kill him.
They then surrounded him, headbutting him and circling behind him as though they were going to attack him. At that point, he felt his life was in danger and decided to exercise his second amendment right. He took out his handgun, pointed it at the assailants and dialed 911.
“Being threatened and fearing for my life, I took and felt compelled to pull my legal concealed weapon to save my life, and when I did that, finally these individuals backed up long enough for me to call 911,” he stated.
What happened next was shocking. Even though he was not violating any laws, deputies on the scene seized his weapon and arrested him in front of his assailants, who he says were still threatening his life at that point.
McCray, who is a pastor at the Lighthouse Church & Marketplace Ministries International in Woodstock, said it was “the most humiliating, dehumanizing, damning and violating event of my life.” The assailants actually cheered and waved at him as the police drove him away.
He said: “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.”
Making matters even worse, he was then charged with brandishing a firearm, despite the fact that in Virginia, brandishing a firearm in “justifiable self-defense” is legal. Moreover, the retired Air Force veteran was using a gun that he owned and had a permit to carry.
Thankfully, a conversation with Shenandoah County Sheriff Timothy Carter changed everything and common sense prevailed. McCray said that he was only allowed to tell his side of the story after insisting on a meeting with the sheriff. After explaining the situation, Carter said that it became apparent that a charge of brandishing was not appropriate in this case and the charges were dropped.
In a statement on Facebook, Carter added: “Actually, as I told Mr. McCray, if I were faced with similar circumstances, I would have probably done the same thing.”
Meanwhile, two supervisors at the sheriff’s department have been placed on administrative leave and an inquiry has been launched.
The five individuals who allegedly assaulted him are now facing various charges including felony abduction, assault-hate crime, assault and battery, and assault by mob. They are all said to be family members and range in age from 26 to 57. All five are being held without bond.
McCray said that the deputies rushed to judgment when they disarmed him, and he believes it is because he was a black man brandishing a gun at five white people. He feels the arrest would not have occurred if he had been white.
In addition, he pointed out that not everyone has the education and community standing he does as a pastor who holds two master’s degrees and a doctorate. He worries that other people might not have been able to defend themselves against the unjust charge the way he did.
However, one detail that should not be lost among the racial overtones of this story is the fact that this man was exercising his Second Amendment right to defend his life. That is what ultimately made these people stop assaulting him, and it could very well be the reason he is alive today.
Sources for this article include: