5 charged with hate crimes in alleged Shenandoah County attack on pastor
Five people have been arrested in Shenandoah County in connection to an ongoing case surrounding a black pastor who was allegedly assaulted by a group of people, drew a weapon to protect himself, and ended up being the one arrested.
According to an announcement from Shenandoah County Sheriff Timothy Carter on Friday afternoon, the charge of brandishing a firearm against Pastor Leon McCray, of Lighthouse Church & Marketplace Ministries International in Woodstock, was dropped earlier this week.
The Shenandoah County community had rallied to McCray's defense after he posted to Facebook earlier this month, saying:
McCray, 61, said he called 911 on Monday, June 1, to report a group of people assaulting him on his property in Edinburg, but afterward, he had to draw his weapon to protect himself.
In an interview on Friday, McCray told WHSV it started when he noticed two people dragging an old fridge toward the dumpsters at the apartment building he owns in Edinburg.
He said he asked the two to leave the property and they "got irate" with him before leaving. But then they came back with three others, threatening him and "using all types of racial slurs," he said.
"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.
. “How dehumanizing … to look at this mob of individuals cheering on the sidelines waving as I was carted off to go to jail.”
McCray said that he had to push to be able to tell his side of the story.
"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.
Sheriff Carter announced on Friday that after deputies responded to the 911 call on June 1 in the area of Printz St., he met with McCray on June 3. The sheriff says after his discussions with the pastor, it was apparent to him that the charge of brandishing against McCray "was certainly not appropriate."
The Virginia code says the charge does "not apply to any person engaged in excusable or justifiable self-defense."
"Actually, as I told Mr. McCray, if I were faced with similar circumstances, I would have probably done the same thing," Sheriff Carter said in his video address to the public.
Afterward, the sheriff says he met twice with the Shenandoah County Commonwealth's Attorney and she agreed with his assessment to drop the brandishing charge.
However, not only was the charge against McCray dropped, but the people who allegedly attacked him have been arrested.
The sheriff says Thursday night, his office obtained warrants for felony abduction, assault by a mob, and Assault – Hate Crime for the following people: 43-year-old Donny Salyers, 26-year-old Dennis Salyers, 42-year-old Farrah Salyers, and 57-year-old Christopher Sharp.
In addition, a fifth person, 26-year-old Amanda Salyers, was charged with assault by mob and Assault – Hate Crime.
The sheriff's office says Dennis and Donny Salyers were already charged with assault and battery and Amanda Salyers and Christopher Sharp were already charged with trespassing.
Overall, these are the charges:
• 43-year-old Donny Salyers: Felony abduction, Assault – Hate crime, Assault by mob, Assault and battery
• 26-year-old Dennis Salyers: Felony abduction, Assault – Hate crime, Assault by mob, Assault and battery
• 42-year-old Farrah Salyers: Felony abduction, Assault – Hate crime, Assault by mob
• 57-year-old Christopher Sharp: Felony abduction, Assault – Hate crime, Assault by mob, trespassing
• 26-year-old Amanda Salyers: Assault – Hate crime, Assault by mob, trespassing
Sheriff Carter said they were all taken into custody Thursday night without incident at a home in Edinburg.
All are being held without bond as the sheriff's office's investigation continues.
In addition, the sheriff has placed two of his staff supervisors on unpaid administrative leave while he completes an administrative review of the initial incident.
Sheriff Carter says he also personally apologized to McCray and appreciates "his patience as I have worked through these matters.."
The sheriff said he does listen to citizen complaints and takes them very seriously.
"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," he said. "Also, I continue to support and recognize the importance of your Constitutional rights, especially your 2nd Amendment right to protect yourself and your family."
McCray told WHSV that he wants to see change within the sheriff's office, and he thinks Sheriff Carter is making good steps.
Each of the people arrested faces an initial court date of July 17, 2020.