A sheriff in Virginia has apologized to Pastor Leon K. McCray Sr. of Woodstock, Virginia for a horribly bungled incident that crystallizes many of the issues inflaming the country right now into a microcosm of racism and police injustice.
According to McCray and as reported by the Washington Post, it all started in the tiny town of Edinburg, situated between the Appalachian and Blue Ridge Mountains. The 61-year-old pastor was visiting a rental property he owned when he saw a white couple attempting to dump a refrigerator on his property. He says they left and returned with three friends who surrounded him, jostling and threatening him, saying things like “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 says the group backed up when he pulled out his licensed firearm and called 911. But then McCray says things went awry when deputies showed up and put him in handcuffs without even taking the time to hear an explanation. McCray says he was handcuffed in front of the mob who’d threatened him while they hurled racial epithets at him.
“All this happened on my property,” McCray told his congregants in a sermon. “I said, what about the trespassing and the assault?” McCray said he was taken away in a police cruiser while the five people who threatened him were “waving at me as I go down the road. You think about how disturbing that is.”
In the aftermath of the day’s events, two officers were placed on administrative leave, Sheriff Timothy Carter publicly apologized and four members of the mob were arrested and charged with felony abduction and assault by a mob and assault in a hate crime. A fifth member was charged with misdemeanor assault by a mob and assault in a hate crime.
“As I told Mr. McCray, if I were faced with similar circumstances, I would have probably done the same thing,” Carter said in a video and written post on Facebook. “I want the people of Shenandoah County to know that I and the sheriff’s office staff appreciate and care about the minority communities, and especially our black community, in Shenandoah County.”
McCray is a 24-year Air Force master sergeant who has never been arrested before.
“When someone does wrong, those in leadership positions should right that wrong quickly, just like they would do if it were them,” McCray told the Post. “I respect and appreciate that charges have been brought against the mob that assaulted me, as there should have been from the beginning. I just want things to change. They must change, and I won’t stop until it changes.”