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Black pastor reports threat to police, but he winds up arrested

The Air Force veteran pulled a gun when a group of five people allegedly slurred and assaulted him, but deputies let the group go and arrested the pastor.

EDINBURG, Va. — A 61-year-old pastor and military veteran called 911 after he said a mob of people threatened him. But when law enforcement showed up, they handcuffed him and hauled him off to jail. 

It's a story heard all too often, and one of the reasons why millions of people are marching across the world. 

Shenandoah County Sheriff Tim Carter said it should not have happened that way. Shortly after WUSA9 talked to him Wednesday, he spoke again to the Commonwealth's Attorney, and nine days after Leon McCray was arrested, Carter said that the prosecutor has agreed to drop the charge against him.

McCray said it started last Monday morning when he noticed two people dragging an old refrigerator toward the dumpsters at the apartment building he owns in the small Shenandoah County town of Edinburg, Virginia. 

"I asked them to leave the property, and they got very angry," he said. "They got irate." 

He thought it was over when the two left his property, but he said they came back with three friends. 

"They were all up on me, at the same time threatening to kill me, using all types of racial slurs," McCray said . "'You black m-f. Life don't happen like that. In this county, we don't take that crap. I'll kill you.'" 

He said they had him surrounded, that one man was head-butting him in front and another man was pushing him from the back. 

"Really to save my life, I pulled my gun," McCray said. "And I pointed it down to the ground in hopes they would back off." 

McCray called 911, but when the deputies arrived, they took the handgun from McCray, went back and talked to his antagonists, and then, without getting his side of the story McCray said, they arrested him. 

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"No one has interviewed me, and now here I am, in handcuffs, and they're still cheering and carrying on and acting crazy," McCray said. "And they put me in the police car, and now they're taking me off to jail." 

Deputies charged McCray with a misdemeanor count of brandishing a firearm, even though the Virginia code says it does "not apply to any person engaged in excusable or justifiable self-defense."

"Mr. McCray was defending himself, and I believe Mr. McCray," Sheriff Carter said.

He continued, saying he's disappointed with what happened and feels the department let McCray down. 

"I believe if I had been there, this would have gone in a totally different direction," Carter said. 

"Does the Second Amendment apply to me?" McCray asked, the emotion clear in his voice.

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The day after the incident, deputies went back and charged four of the five people who allegedly attacked McCray. Maj. Scott Proctor said Donny Salyers, 43, and Dennis Salyers, 26, have now been charged with assault and battery. Amanda Salyers, 26, and Christopher Sharp, 57, have been charged with trespassing.

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