A US pastor at The Life Tabernacle Church, Pastor Tony Spell has been arrested on an aggravated assault charge, local police said.
Spell before his arrest had defied the statewide ban on large gatherings amid the coronavirus pandemic in Louisiana. Now he is accused of backing up a church bus near a protester outside his church on Sunday, reports CBS affiliate WAFB.
After issuing an arrest warrant Monday, the Central Police Department announced Tuesday morning that Spell turned himself in and was arrested on one count of aggravated assault and improper backing. Police said he was fugitive with outstanding warrants in two nearby cities. He will be booked into East Baton Rouge Parish Prison.
Spell can be heard saying, “Don’t take my Bible,” as police place his hands behind his back to handcuff him. The police do remove the Bible from his possession before leading him away.
The Life Tabernacle Church pastor has refused to close down his church in the midst of the new coronavirus pandemic. The Central Police Department said Spell was issued an arrest warrant for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
#BREAKING: Pastor Tony Spell just cuffed and en route to EBR Parish Prison. Charged with aggravated assault, improper backing, and outstanding bench warrants. Central PD releasing a statement soon. @WAFB pic.twitter.com/4hx1yQRV4N
— Graham Ulkins (@GrahamUlkins) April 21, 2020
Surveillance video shows a white bus accelerating in reverse and stopping just a few feet away from a man carrying a sign in front of the church.
— Abbi Rocha (@AbbiRochaTV) April 20, 2020
Spell admitted in an interview that he was driving the bus and said he simply wanted to get out and confront the protester, but his wife convinced him otherwise.
Security footage of the incident Sunday shows a large school bus–like church vehicle backing up to a man holding a sign. The bus stops right before it reaches the man, who was protesting Spell’s refusal to adhere to government lockdown orders.
Trey Bennett, who identified himself as the protester seen in the video, said that he thought Spell was merely backing the vehicle out of the driveway in order to drive away, “but he just kept coming in reverse.”
“I could see him driving the bus. He was honking his horn loudly at me and making gestures suggesting he was yelling while he was driving. It didn’t seem real until it was physically in my face with a bus,” Bennett said of the incident.