In Virginia, the case of a black pastor who pulled his gun on a racist mob has been making news for a number of reasons.
First, he was initially arrested by sheriff’s deputies when they arrived at the scene, even though he’d been the alleged victim. The sheriff has now apologized for the arrest.
Meanwhile, the pastor’s five alleged assailants — four men and one woman — are facing “hate crime” charges. However, there’s one aspect that isn’t being routinely discussed — the fact the pastor had the power to defend himself in the first place because the Second Amendment guaranteed it.
According to WHSV-TV, Pastor Leon McCray, 61, says the trouble began on June 1 when he noticed two people who were going to throw away an old refrigerator at the dumpsters in the apartment complex McCray owns in Edinburg, Virginia.
When he requested the two men leave the property, they “got irate” but left, he said. Their absence didn’t last long.
The men allegedly came back with three other people, who he said were “using all types of racial slurs” toward him.
“Racial epithets, and the n-word, and your black life, your [expletive] 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 said.
The mob allegedly proceeded to surround him, with one of the men giving him a head-butt, he said.
When one of their number “snatched his shirt off and circled behind me,” McCray said had no choice but to exercise his Second Amendment rights — taking out his handgun and pointing it at his assailants while 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.”
According to The New York Times, McCray told his congregation in a recorded sermon that he had a license for the weapon.
Unfortunately, that’s where things go south. According to WHSV, “when deputies arrived, McCray says only one talked with him, didn’t ask for his story, spoke with the white family who had attacked him, and then seized his weapon and arrested him in front of the people who had just been assaulting him.”
McCray, who attended a protest at the county courthouse in Woodstock earlier this month, told The Northern Virginia Daily he “had to draw my weapon to save my life.”
“I got arrested for brandishing a weapon,” he said. “It saved my life. ‘I don’t care.’ In other words, my Second Amendment right, they didn’t care.
“And so they took my weapon, and in front of this mob of five white individuals that were still threatening my life when the police and sheriff [deputies] showed up … they put me in handcuffs, put me in the car, took me to jail.”
“How humiliating,” he said. “How dehumanizing … to look at this mob of individuals cheering on the sidelines waving as I was carted off to go to jail.”
He was charged with brandishing a firearm; something that changed after he met with Shenandoah County Sheriff Timothy Carter on June 3. After the meeting, the sheriff, along with the local district attorney, decided to drop the charges.
“After talking with him about the incident, it was apparent to me that the charge of brandishing was certainly not appropriate,” Carter said in a statement on Facebook. “Actually, as I told Mr. McCray, if I were faced with similar circumstances, I would have probably done the same thing.”
Virginia law states it’s legal to brandish a firearm in “justifiable self-defense.”
Yes, there are a whole lot of horrible aspects to this story that can’t be sugar-coated. The role the right to self-defense played here shouldn’t be ignored, however.
We don’t know how this would have ended had McCray not been able to defend himself, but allegedly racist mobs accused of head-butting a 61-year-old man aren’t known for restraint. This was a situation that could have ended much worse than it did — even though the reported behavior of the law enforcement involved leaves much to be desired.
In what can be considered a happy-ish ending, two supervisors in the sheriff’s department have been placed on administrative leave and the sheriff has ordered an inquiry.
Yes, I understand the case of Leon McCray isn’t going to get many people focusing on the Second Amendment aspects of the narrative. The other elements are timely in a sordid and tragic way.
What shouldn’t get lost here is what made these individuals stop allegedly assaulting McCray: The Constitution guaranteed this pastor’s God-given right to defend himself.