By John McCaslin and Patty Hardee
Rappahannock News staff
An alleged “bird flipping” incident on Courthouse Row involving Rappahannock County Planning Commission member Al Henry and county resident Tracy Abdullah has escalated to the point that their case has landed in the lap of Rappahannock County Sheriff Connie Compton.
This newspaper reported last week that at last month’s meeting of the Planning Commission, Hampton planner Al Henry interrupted the discussion to accuse an attendee of giving him the middle finger salute.
“Mr. Chairman,” complained Henry, “for the record, that lady back there gave me the finger purposely.”
Speaking over him, the lady he was referring to — Tracy Abdullah of Amissville — was heard to say, “I was scratching my nose.”
Now, in an interview with this newspaper on Tuesday, Abdullah reveals: “As I sat there for three-and-a-half hours at the meeting [Henry] stared me down with intimidation — intending to intimidate me by sitting there. Three and a half hours I sat there and I took it. His smiles from ear-to-ear, his batting of his eyes . . . .”
That said, Henry told this newspaper that he has since sought the protection of the Rappahannock County Sheriff’s Office after feeling threatened by Abdullah while pumping gas at the Clevenger Corner 7-Eleven.
“I was coming home from my office [Aug. 1] and was filling up with fuel on the west side of the pumps and I noticed this charcoal colored SUV coming towards me from the other side,” said Henry. “When it got to the other side of my vehicle it stopped suddenly. And I backed up.”
Behind the wheel of the SUV, he said, was Abdullah.
“And she sat there and stared at me for three minutes,” said Henry. “And then she left. And I thought this is crazy. She drove west to go home, which is the way I was going. So I stayed at the gas station for 15 minutes to make sure there wouldn’t be another encounter.”
A short time later, when driving past Abdullah’s house off of Highway 211, Henry said he noticed the woman’s vehicle parked in her driveway with its lights turned on.
“I kept on going, of course. I told myself this is not good, this woman is looking to have a situation with me, confront me, whatever. And I don’t want to have anything to do with this,” he said.
When he arrived home Henry contacted two attorneys, both of whom advised him to obtain a “stay-away notice” from the sheriff’s office, which was dated Aug. 2 and served to Abdullah on Aug. 4
“She’s looking for trouble and I don’t need it,” the county official explained.
In a phone call Monday and subsequent interview Tuesday, Abdullah confirmed the time and place of the incident at Clevenger’s Corner, but she said disagrees with Henry’s version of the events, including that she parked in her driveway with the SUV’s lights on.
“Wednesday evening, my 9-year-old daughter and myself were coming back from running errands in Warrenton about 9:30 at night. My gas light came on coming up 211, I turned into the gas station . . . kind of in the center of the gas pumps. I got out. We did not go into the store. I pumped my gas, got my receipt, got back in the car, started to pull off . . . [and] I glance over at the end of the pump. There stands Al Henry with that continued death stare at me . . .
“It was a rainy night, I needed to get home,” she continued. “And I was dumbfounded that a man would continue this schoolyard behavior, staring at me…
“He’s saying I was parked at the end of my driveway? As a matter of fact, I didn’t even use my driveway [that night]. I used the other side of our farm to come in . . . It was pouring down rain that night and I wasn’t at my driveway because our bridge flooded . . . I couldn’t come in or out of the driveway . . .
“I don’t even know where he lives. How does he pass my house to get to his house? I don’t know. How he knows where I live? I don’t know. How he thought to look for my vehicle at the end of my driveway? I don’t know.”
Abdullah said that prior to the July 18 Planning Commission meeting she had never met Henry, although in last week’s story, beneath the headline “Bird flipping on Courthouse Row?” this newspaper incorrectly reported that Henry was party to previous real estate transactions with Abdullah.
“I am not a party to any real estate transactions with [Abdullah],” Henry told us. “I had never seen or spoken to her before [the July 18 meeting].”
Abdullah, however, says she knows another side of Henry, which she shared with the News.
“I was thinking, ‘What is this really about?’ In 2016, we were here at our property. There’s a property next to us that had a lot of in-and-out activities. There’s no dwelling on the property. They had in-and-out activity all times of the night, all times of the day.
“There was also hunting on the property. I have three children. As a concerned neighbor, I reached out to the property owners, who are not local, and expressed my concern of all the activity. I was told there was to be no hunting on the property. I let them know that there was hunting. I also let [the owner] know that I came across people coming out of the driveway saying that they had hunting permission . . .
“The owner told me that [she had given] Al Henry and [former Hampton supervisor] Bryant Lee land use rights to her property, the right to hay,” Abdullah said. “And there were people on the property who said Al Henry gave them hunting permission. [The owners] had never given permission for anybody [to hunt], and she asked them to no longer have anything to do with the property. She then asked me and my husband if we would watch over the property since we live here . . .
“The hunters said that they had permission from Al Henry,” she said. “I think ever since then he has carried a grudge.”
Reached Tuesday, Sheriff Compton said a stay-away order prevents an alleged perpetrator from having any direct contact with, or coming onto the property of a person feeling threatened. Nor can third parties, acting on behalf of an individual served with a stay-away notice, contact a victim.
That said, it is the sheriff’s understanding that Abdullah may still attend public meetings of the Rappahannock County government, including the Planning Commission, even if the planner is present.
“As long as there is no direct contact [with Henry],” the sheriff said.
“This is a step down from a warrant,” Compton explained. “It’s basically just a warning.”
“Hopefully it settles things,” she added, but if not a case can always be “taken into court.”