By Rhea Mahbubani, Insider
Five people have been arrested on hate crimes charges and a Virginia sheriff has apologized, after a Black pastor was attacked earlier this month and arrested by the same deputies responding to his call for help.
Shenandoah County Sheriff Timothy Carter told Leon K. McCray Sr. that he was sorry for the way his deputies responded to the complaint and altercation in Edinburg on June 1, WVEC reported.
The issue began when McCray, 61, stopped two people from dumping a refrigerator in the dumpster at an apartment building that he owns, according to WHSV.
They “got irate” when he asked them to leave the premises, he said, and took off only to return with three others. They threatened McCray and called him “all types of racial slurs,” WHSV said.
“Racial epithets, and the N word, and your Black life, your motherf—ing Black life don’t make, it doesn’t make a difference in this county, it doesn’t make a difference to me, and we will kill you,” McCray told WHSV.
McCray described being surrounded by them when one man started to headbutt him, adding, “One of the guys snatched his shirt off and circled behind me, that’s when it got really bad.”
McCray told WHSV that he felt unsafe and so felt he had no choice but to pull out his gun and call 911.
“It got to the point where this is really getting really, really bad,” he 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 deputies arrived on scene, McCray said one of them spoke to him but no one sought his story. Instead, they spoke with the group of white people, confiscated McCray’s weapon, and arrested him.
“How humiliating,” McCray told NVDaily. “How dehumanizing … to look at this mob of individuals cheering on the sidelines waving as I was carted off to go to jail.”
The sheriff said he ‘would have probably done the same thing’ as McCray
Carter and McCray met on June 3 to discuss the encounter and the charge filed against McCray for brandishing a firearm, the sheriff said in a video shared on Facebook.
“After talking with him about the incident, it was apparent to me that the charge of brandishing was certainly not appropriate,” Carter said. “Actually, as I told Mr. McCray, if I were faced with similar circumstances, I would have probably done the same thing.”
Carter also talked to the Shenandoah Commonwealth’s Attorney, who agreed with his assessment of dropping the baseless charge against McCray, he said.
Instead, the five people accused of assaulting McCray have been arrested and face a slew of charges, including hate crimes charges, according to the sheriff’s office.
Donny Salyers, 43, Dennis Salyers, 26, Farrah Salyers, 42, and Christopher Sharp, 57, have been charged with assault – hate crime, assault and battery by mob, and felony abduction. Amanda Salyers, 26, was charged with assault – hate crime, and assault and battery by mob.
They were all been taken into custody without incident and are being held without bond, Carter said, noting that an investigation is ongoing. He said he also placed two supervisors in the sheriff’s office on unpaid administrative leave while he investigates the initial incident.
Carter thanked McCray for “his patience as I have worked through these matters” and promised residents that he takes their grievances “very seriously.”
“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,” he said. “Also, I continue to support and recognize the importance of your Constitutional rights, especially your Second Amendment right to protect yourself and your family.”
This article originally appeared in Insider.