Tony Spell -- a Louisiana pastor who repeatedly held worship services at his church in defiance of state social-distancing orders -- is accused of assaulting a protester with a bus, Baton Rouge's WAFB-TV reports. A warrant has been issued for his arrest.
Spell has been known to send out buses into and around the town of Central to pick up worshipers who wouldn't otherwise be able to make it to church. On Sunday, Spell deliberately backed up a bus that he was driving in the direction of a protester, according to Trey Bennett.
Bennett was protesting outside of Spell's Life Tabernacle Church on Sunday, expressing his displeasure that the pastor was holding church -- as he has done for the past several weeks -- in defiance of Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards' social-distancing orders that prohibit large gatherings, including at houses of worship. Spell has continued to insist he will hold church in his building, despite a global pandemic and despite governmental edicts that forbid it.
Bennett said the pastor deliberately backed up the bus he was driving to within a few feet of his face.
"At first I thought he [Spell] was just turning around his bus and was going to pull away, but he just kept coming in reverse. I could see him [Spell] driving the bus. He was honking his horn loudly at me and making gestures suggesting he was yelling while he was driving. It didn't seem real until it was physically in my face with a bus," Bennett recalled.
Video of the incident can be seen below.
For his part, the pastor claimed he simply wanted to have a conversation about his ministry with Bennett. He maintained it was never his intention to assault the protestor.
"I was pulling in from my bus route, picking up black children who haven't eaten because of this sinister policy that has closed schools. I was going to approach this gentleman and ask him to leave," Spell said, adding that the man has been outside his church for weeks and often makes "obscene gestures," a claim Bennett denies.
On Monday, the Central Police Department confirmed that a warrant had been issued for Spell's arrest. He's wanted for aggravated assault.
As previously reported by The Inquisitr, one congregant at Spell's church has died of COVID-19, although the pastor claimed the man died of a broken heart after learning that a different congregant had died. A third congregant -- a lawyer who represented the church in a lawsuit challenging the state's social-distancing orders that forbid religious gatherings -- had been on oxygen support as well, after coming down with COVID-19 symptoms.