Virgil Rayford, stadning on his property as he speaks with a news reporter. (Screengrab from WWL-TV4 news report)
A Black property owner in Louisiana was arrested and is facing felony charges stemming from a Feb. 29 altercation with a man selling racist paraphernalia on his land.
Virgil Rayford, 52, of Washington Parish, La. said he was notified Friday that someone was trespassing on his land. Rayford said that when he pulled up to the vacant 2-acre plot, he found a tent set up with Confederate flags and other White supremacist merchandise. He said he hadn’t given the vendor, identified by the Washington Parish Sheriff’s Office as Matthew Barrentine, 37, permission to set up his enterprise there.
“What makes this case awful is that our client is a Black man, and it was on his property. The trespasser was a White man selling racist paraphernalia. Confederate flags, things that my client, not only didn’t give him permission to sell, but also things he finds highly offensive,” Rayford’s lawyer Annie Spell, told CBS affiliate WWL-TV.
Rayford told NBC affiliate WDSU-TV that he was angry when he confronted the interloper on his property.
“The most upsetting part is that he did not want to believe this was my property,” Rayford said. “So I am trying to explain to him, this is my property, get off right now.”
Further incensed by Barrentine’s reaction, Rayford overturned a table and again demanded that the man leave his property. When Barrentine refused, a scuffle ensued, Rayford’s other attorney, Buddy Spell, told WDSU.
When the men parted, Barrentine walked away, Spell said, and his client became concerned that the man may have been going to retrieve a weapon. So, Rayford went to his vehicle, grabbed his gun and walked back toward Barrentine with the gun at his side.
At that point, Barrentine became more cooperative, Spell said, and he packed up his goods and left.
Instead of letting the matter lie, however, Barrentine went to the Sheriff’s Office, offering a different version of events.
“To the best of our understanding, Mr. Rayford struck him on the side of the head with a pistol, which is a felony, and therefore, we wound up arresting Mr. Rayford with aggravated assault with a firearm,” said Chief Deputy Mike Haley, according to WDSU.
Meanwhile, Barrentine was released with a mere misdemeanor citation for criminal trespassing on Rayford’s property.
“I feel like I am the victim right now,” Rayford said. “Some people look at me like maybe I am the racist one, and I am not the racist one, so I am falling victim to someone that shouldn’t have been on my property.”
Spell said they are attempting to get the charges against his client dropped.