‘Play fighting’ ends with assault in Rowan County, deputies say

Mother of suspect disputes report, offers another side to the story
James Isaac Leonard, 27, was charged.
James Isaac Leonard, 27, was charged.(Rowan Sheriff's Office)
Published: Nov. 8, 2022 at 6:46 AM EST
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GOLD HILL, N.C. (WBTV) - Two men who were said to be “play fighting” ended up in a real struggle that resulted in serious injuries for one, according to Rowan County deputies.

The incident happened around 9:15 p.m. on Friday, according to reports from the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office. Deputies were called to a home on Barn Road to find Rowan County EMS staff standing over a man lying on the floor with injuries to his face and mouth, including a possible broken jaw.

Deputies then spoke to 27-year-old James Isaac Leonard and his mother. The mother told deputies Leonard had borrowed her vehicle and he and the alleged victim had gone to Food Lion. When the men returned, the two had dinner. She said she saw the two men “play fighting,” and then she left and went to her own nearby home.

Amy Lynn Leonard, the mother of James Isaac Leonard said that the details in the police report needed clarification.

“I was home minding my own business,” Amy Leonard told WBTV. “My 6-year-old grandson came home and said that Michael and Isaac were fighting, so I walked over there to make sure they wasn’t. They said they were fine so I came back home.”

According to the report, the woman told deputies that sometime later she, “heard James crying outside by the trash cans.” Leonard told his mother that the victim had attacked him with a knife and he had to defend himself. The woman called 911.

“My husband had went out about 9:30 and found Isaac up beside the camper crying saying Michael had pulled a knife out on him and that Isaac had to defend himself and said he hurt Michael pretty bad so we called 911,” Amy Leonard said.

Deputies say that’s when Leonard picked up an ax and returned to his own residence and began hitting things. He later ran into the woods.

“Isaac did take a axe over but he never used the axe. He heard the law coming and ran to the woods, then he came out and turned himself over to the police. The EMS came and took Michael to the hospital and took my son Isaac to jail,” Amy Leonard said.

Deputies found Leonard and charged him with assault with a deadly weapon with intent to inflict serious bodily injury. Deputies said alcohol was a factor in the incident. It was unclear if Leonard struck the victim with the ax, according to the report.

Deputies said Leonard had an outstanding warrant out of Davidson County for failure to appear on child support charges. Leonard was given a written promise to appear in court on the assault charge and was released on a $2,500 bond for the child support charge.

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