Arrest warrant is issued for lockdown-defier pastor Tony Spell after video appears to catch him trying to reverse a bus over a coronavirus protestor outside his church
- Footage appears to show a white bus reversing at speed towards a protester
- Central Police in Baton Rouge have issued a warrant for Spell’s arrest
- The Louisiana pastor has been continuing to hold church services amid Covid-19
- Learn more about how to help people impacted by COVID
By Alice Cachia For Mailonline
Published: | Updated:
The controversial pastor Tony Spell has a warrant out for his arrest after a video appears to show him trying to reverse a bus over a coronavirus protester.
Central Police in Baton Rouge issued the warrant on Monday based on video evidence from an incident on Sunday, TMZ reported.
Spell allegedly reversed the bus on the shoulder of the road outside his Life Tabernacle Church in Louisiana and nearly ran over a man who was protesting his church gatherings.
A seven second clip posted on social media shows the large white bus reversing at some speed towards a seemingly oblivious member of the public. The bus appears to stop mere feet away from the person.
WAFB.com named the individual as Trey Bennett, who has previously protested the church’s ongoing services during the coronavirus pandemic.
He claimed: ‘At first I thought he [Spell] was just turning around his bus and was going to pull away, but he just kept coming in reverse. I could see him [Spell] 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.’
The white bus is pictured in front of the Tabernacle Life Church in Louisiana. Right, an individual stands outside the church
It grinds to a halt mere feet away from the person
On Monday Spell told WAFB in a phone interview: ‘[Bennett] has been in front of my church driveway for three weeks now. He shoots people obscene finger gestures and shouts vulgarities,’ though Bennett denies the allegations.
In April Bennett told local news outlet BR Proud: ‘I think gathering in this large of a group it’s just incubating the coronavirus. These people are coming from five different parishes people that live near me go to this church and I don’t want to get coronavirus.
‘I know people have the right to assemble and normally the freedom of religion but right now it’s imperative we don’t.
Police are expecting the pastor to turn himself in today when he will be charged with aggravated assault and improper reversing, TMZ reported.
Bus loads of congregants arrived at Spell’s Life Tabernacle Church before an Easter church service on Sunday
The controversial leader of the Life Tabernacle Church in Louisiana has faced intense criticism after repeatedly breaking lockdown rules and holding church services, going against stay-at-home orders issued by Governor John Bel Edwards.
And although one member of his congregation died from COVID-19 – a diagnosis Spell has denied – the religious leader went ahead with his service as usual on Sunday and announced day one of the #PastorSpellStimulusChallenge.
More than 300,000 have watched him online urging them to claim their $1,200 payouts and give it to a missionary.
A video clip shows him saying: ‘Rule no.2, donate your stimulus money. Rule no.3 donate it to evangelists, north American evangelists who haven’t had an offering in a month. Missionaries who haven’t had an offering in a month. Music ministers who haven’t had an offering in a month.’
He added: ‘We are challenging you, if you can, (to) give your stimulus package to evangelists and missionaries who do not get the stimulus package. They don’t file taxes the way you and I do.’
He has defended his decision to ask parishioners to give up their unemployment checks.
Spell has come under fire for repeatedly holding services at his Life Tabernacle Church near Baton Rouge despite Louisiana’s stay-at-home order to stop the spread of coronavirus. Churchgoers are pictured above after a sermon on March 29
A video posted on YouTube clocked up thousands of comments, with some asking whether Spell’s church should be using regular donations to help missionaries. He defended his reactions in an interview with CNN saying the church is giving to those who are most needy.
The Sunday service went ahead despite the recent death of one of the Chuch’s parishioners from Covid-19.
Harold Orillion, 78, died last Wednesday, according to The East Baton Rouge Parish coroner.
The man’s cause of death was listed as ‘acute respiratory distress syndrome’ due to the coronavirus.
Pastor Spell disputed the cause of death, saying he died of a broken heart after recently losing his son. The pastor has previously said his parishioners are true Christians who wouldn’t mind dying from the virus because they’d be doing so in the name of God and freedom.
It’s unclear when the man last attended a service at Spell’s church.