Police arrested a 35-year-old white man in Chattanooga, Tennessee, on Wednesday when he was found on a rooftop overlooking the city's Black Lives Matter demonstrations with several firearms, including a loaded AK-47. The man was later identified as Kevin Leko and charged with possession of a firearm while under the influence of alcohol. While the protests have attempted to draw attention to the racial biases and violence in police departments, Chattanooga PD pointed to this arrest as an example that they are protecting the community.
Leko positioned himself on a rooftop on the 1400 block of Market Street in Chattanooga, and cell phone photos showed him standing in clear sight with an assault rifle according to a report by the Chattanooga Times Free Press. After getting calls about the menacing figure, police got to the rooftop and ordered Leko to the ground. He complied, and police took him to the Hamilton County Jail, where his bail was set at $3,000. In addition to the multiple guns on his person, police found a six-pack of beer in his bag and suspected that Leko was already intoxicated when they arrived.
Leko was carrying the AK-47, two 9mm handguns, a revolver and a PA-224 semi-automatic rifle. All of the guns were loaded, though the PA-224 was broken down, and Leko carried extra loaded magazines for each weapon. He had the AK-47 in his hand and the other rifle protruding from a bag when police found him.
According to the arresting officers, Leko said that he "had been feeling very anxious lately because of the protests in town that had gone by his apartment building. His anxiety was also up from watching the riots across the country," officers wrote in the affidavit. "He said that he got home and had some beers and was watching the news of the riots again, making him increasingly anxious and in fear."
In his mind, Leko was on the roof to "defend himself in the event the protest turned violent and people came [to] burn his building or kill him." Neighbors told police that they had been concerned about Leko, but had never heard him make threats against anyone. Leko is due in court on June 18, and property management banned him from returning to his apartment building.
Chattanooga Police Chief David Roddy saw this arrest as a good thing for his department amid the ongoing calls for radical police reform or complete police abolition around the country. He said: "our Chattanooga Police Department is doing everything we can to make sure that our community has the ability to express their First Amendment rights to say and put out the statements that they want for not only their police department but their community and their nation to hear."0comments
"We are doing everything we can to protect them during those demonstrations, during those walks, but we also felt that... it was our duty to make sure that everyone understood the types of threats that are possibly presenting themselves in and around the demonstrations," he added.
Still, some critics were not moved, arguing on social media that police should not have allowed a man like Leko to reach a rooftop heavily armed in that way. They also guessed that an African American person in his position would not have been taken alive as Leko was.