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5 Charged With Hate Crime In Attack Of Black Pastor In Virginia

The pastor, Leon McCray, Sr., 61, was originally charged for drawing his gun on the group during the incident. Those charges were dropped.
5 Charged With Hate Crime In Attack Of Black Pastor In Virginia
Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office

Leon McCray, Sr., a Black Virginia pastor who pulled a gun on five alleged attackers, will no longer face charges for brandishing the weapon. Meanwhile, although no one else was arrested at the time of the incident on June 1, the attackers are now facing varying hate crime charges, WHSV reports.

According to the news station, McCray, 61, called the police on June 1 to report an attack by a group of people at an apartment building he owns in Edingurgh.

The incident started when he saw two individuals dragging an old fridge to the dumpsters at his property. McCray asked the people to leave, which they did after getting angry. However, they later came back with three other individuals and began threatening McCray and “using all types of racial slurs,” according to the pastor at  Lighthouse Church & Marketplace Ministries International.

“Racial epithets, and the N-word, and your Black life, your M-F 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.

Article continues after video.

The group surrounded him, and one man started head-butting him, leaving McCray no choice to defend himself by drawing his gun and calling 911.

“It got to the point where this is really getting really, really bad,” McCray 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.”

However, when deputies arrived, only one deputy spoke to McCray, and even then didn’t ask him what happened. Instead, officers apparently spoke to the individuals who attacked him, before taking McCray’s weapon and arresting him in front of his attackers, who were all White.

“How humiliating,” he 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 community in Shenandoah County stood by the pastor, demanding justice in the case, according to WHSV. And even then McCray had to demand justice for himself.

“I met with the sheriff. I wrote, you know, after I was arrested, the next day I wrote a letter and asked him for an opportunity to tell my story, which I really had not told,” McCray said.

Meeting with McCray on June 3, the sheriff determined that the charges against the pastor were “certainly not appropriate.”

“Actually, as I told Mr. McCray, if I were faced with similar circumstances, I would have probably done the same thing,” Shenandoah County Sheriff Timothy Carter said in a video address to the public.

Then, on Thursday night, the sheriff obtained warrants to arrest the five people involved in the alleged attack on various hate crime charges.

According to the report, Donny Salyers, 43; Dennis Salyers, 26; Farrah Salyers, 42; and Christopher Sharp, 57 are all facing charges of felony abduction, assault by mob and assault-hate crime.

Amanda Salyers, 26, is facing charges of assault by mob and assault-hate crime.

In addition to those charges, Dennis and Donny Salyers were already facing charges of assault and battery, while Amanda Salyers and Christopher Sharp were already charged with trespassing.

The five are all being held without bond as the investigation is still ongoing.

According to WHSV, two of the sheriff’s staff supervisors have been placed on administrative leave pending an administrative review of the initial incident.

The sheriff has also personally apologized to McCray.

“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,” Sheriff Carter 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.”