Virginia Sheriff Apologizes To Black Pastor Who Called 911 After He Was Assaulted, Got Arrested Instead

A picture of a police car.
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A Virginia sheriff has issued an apology to a black pastor who called police for help after he was allegedly assaulted by members of a white family — only to have police arrest him instead and let the attackers go free.

As NBC News reported, the incident happened on June 1 when pastor Leon McCray saw people trying to dump a refrigerator on his property. As McCray told members of his congregation the next week, he told the people to stop but one began to verbally attack him while another went to get three other people. The group then began to attack and shout at him, McCray said.

McCray said he then pulled a concealed firearm, and the group left while he called 911. But when police arrived, they spoke to the white group who McCray said had just attacked him, then arrested the black pastor on a charge of brandishing a firearm.

“I was not given an opportunity to speak,” McCray said. “And I said, what about the trespassing and the assault?”

McCray said the police put him in handcuffs, and that he was arrested by an officer he had known in the community for two decades. McCray said the white attackers waved at him as he was taken away.

The incident drew national attention, especially as it comes amid growing nationwide protests in the wake of the death of George Floyd. Protesters have called for sweeping reforms to policing and spoken out against what they see as a system tilted against black people.

After the outcry the arrested created in the community, the Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Department announced that the brandishing charge against McCray had been dropped. In a note posted on Facebook, Sheriff Timothy Carter said he met with McCray personally two days after the arrest to speak about the incident and came to realize that the charges were not warranted.

“Actually, as I told Mr. McCray, if I were faced with similar circumstances, I would have probably done the same thing,” Carter wrote.

The sheriff issued an apology to McCray and said he ordered an internal review of the charge against him and why the alleged attackers were not arrested at the time. Two staff supervisors had already been placed on unpaid administrative leave during the investigation, the NBC News report noted. The department also announced that five people had been charged with various assault and hate crime charges. Two were also charged with assault and battery, and another two faced trespassing charges.