augusta free press news

White man terrorizes black family, released on unsecured bond: Why?

(© Richard –

We are angry as hell! Last Friday, Douglas Truslow, who is white, aimed a gun at black children playing in his Staunton neighborhood, including placing a laser target on a mother and her baby. The children who live in this neighborhood are part of my family and extended family, two of whom I had just dropped off at their aunt’s house hours earlier. When the police arrived, which included Charlottesville as well as Staunton, Truslow engaged in an eight-hour armed standoff where he threatened them with violence.

As families hunkered down in their homes, police came into the bedrooms of the children and escorted them out of the immediate vicinity of this armed potential shooter. The trauma for these frightened children who understood that their lives were in danger!

When Truslow was finally apprehended after this tense all-night standoff, he was released that same morning on an unsecured bond by Magistrate Don McCown and allowed to return to the community that he had terrorized. These families are scared and angry and cannot go back to their homes. Imagine, the man who terrorized them and the neighborhood allowed to return only hours later! How could something like this happen?

It seems almost certain that Magistrate McCown would not have returned Truslow to his home if he was one of his neighbors, and it is unlikely that he would have allowed him to return to a predominantly white middle-class neighborhood after an armed eight-hour standoff with two police departments. But it is disconcerting that all the people he threatened before the police arrived were black, and Truslow, a white man, was allowed to go back to where those children and families lived, a troubling possible indication that those lives mattered less. It is also troubling that the media coverage of this event has been strangely subdued. Would we have seen more immediate detailed coverage if this eight-hour armed standoff had happened in College Park?

I am still waiting for an answer from Magistrate McCown (and his boss, Chief Magistrate Robyn Wilhelm) as to why he thought it would be a good idea to release this local terrorist back into the neighborhood with no consequences. Why wasn’t he detained, in the very least – the very least! – for a mental health evaluation, particularly since clearly he demonstrated that he was a threat to others? We want an answer and accountability. But even of more urgency is to get Douglas Truslow out of the neighborhood and in custody!

For many of us, this incident speaks to larger local and national problems. While Truslow was set free on an unsecured bond after his night of armed rampage, there is a young African American man still sitting in our local Middle River Regional Jail with no bond for a nonviolent crime. There is also another local African American man who tossed a skateboard at a car incarcerated with no bond. But Truslow, a white man, is set free with an unsecured bond after a violent act where he threatened the lives of children and police officers and who poses a danger to his community, an example of white privilege in its most vulgar form.

Imagine this same scenario except make Truslow black and the children white. Chances are significantly higher the standoff may not have ended peacefully, and if he was apprehended, it is less likely that he would have gotten an unsecured bond and gone right back to his home like nothing happened.

This all fits the longstanding pattern of systemic racism in the justice system, where African Americans receive harsher treatment and sentencing compared to their white counterparts. And we are now seeing it play out in a striking if not obscene way right here in Augusta County, Virginia!

Many of us also believe that the Second Amendment aggression in our area, which has been supported and validated by our new city council in Staunton, as well the president stirring white resentment and prejudice over the last four years contributes to such violence as we see with Douglas Truslow, who could be a poster-boy for the NRA. This all contributes to a climate of fear and anger where some white men feel emboldened to act aggressively towards African Americans and others.

One way I believe we can begin to change this is to change the administration in November. We have to do something. What is happening here is emblematic of our ongoing national crisis involving systemic racism in the justice system and how African American persons and communities are often disregarded if not targeted. These are pressing problems that threaten the well-being of our black communities and children, and many white people are increasingly more than willing to infringe on their safety without a second thought.

We want answers. We want change. We want racism at all levels to end.

Letter from Nicholas Patler/Waynesboro