Man on building with loaded AK-47 arrested during George Floyd protests, Chattanooga police say

A photo of the suspect, Kevin Leko, before he was arrested / Photo provided by the Chattanooga Police Department
photo Kevin Leko / Hamilton County Jail

Chattanooga police arrested a 35-year-old man who was standing on the roof of a building along the local George Floyd protest route with multiple firearms on Wednesday evening - including a loaded AK-47.

It was the fifth day of protests against police brutality following the death of Floyd, a handcuffed African American man, as a white Minneapolis police officer pinned him to the ground with his knee on his neck.

"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," Police Chief David Roddy said at a news conference Thursday.

"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."

Officers received a call around 9 p.m. Wednesday about a man, later identified as Kevin Leko, standing atop the building in the 1400 block of Market Street with what appeared to be an assault rifle, according to Hamilton County court documents.

When police arrived, they found Leko with a bag and a rifle sticking out and ordered him to get on the ground, and he immediately complied and was taken into custody, court records state.

Officers found an AK-47 rifle, two 9mm handguns and a revolver, all of which were loaded, according to court records. They also found a broken down PA-224 with loaded magazines and various loaded magazines for each weapon with the exception of the revolver.

photo A photo of the suspect, Kevin Leko, before he was arrested / Photo provided by the Chattanooga Police Department

Leko also had six beers in his bag and appeared to already be very intoxicated, based on his speech, movement and the smell of beer on his breath, an officer wrote in the criminal affidavit, adding that the man told police 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."

So he went to the roof with the intent to defend himself "in the event the protest turned violent and people came [to] burn his building or kill him," court records state.

Neighbors told police they were very concerned but didn't hear him make any threats to anyone or point the firearms at anyone.

Leko was taken to the police station where he was interviewed by agents with the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives before being taken to the Hamilton County Jail. He was charged with possession of a firearm while under the influence. His bond was set at $3,000.

Leko is expected to appear in court on June 18.

In the meantime, attorney Patrick Wagner, who represents the apartment complex at which Leko was arrested, said Leko "will not be allowed to return to the property indefinitely."

"We are concerned, during this very heated time in our country, for the safety of the other residents," Wagner said. "The property management condemns his actions, as do I personally, and we do not defend or attempt to justify his actions in any way."

Wagner said property management is "taking all necessary steps to assure its residents that he is no longer welcome on the property and will not be returning henceforth."

"Management is also cooperating with local law enforcement as necessary to help reassure its residents that they are safe and not in any danger from this individual," he added.

Leko is the second man to face firearms-related charges in Chattanooga during George Floyd protests.

On Monday, police arrested Trevan Young, 29, after receiving a tip that there was an individual with an intent to possibly do harm to people attending that event. Police found a disassembled AR-15 concealed in Young's backpack and multiple AR-15 magazines, two of which were loaded and easily accessible to him.

He was charged with possession of a firearm with intent to go armed, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct.

The two arrests are not known to be connected.

"Your officers are continually coming between this and your community, between this [these threats] and the demonstrations," Roddy said. "Your officers will be down there again tonight, and we look forward to engaging and having great conversations."

Roddy said that any time there's a large gathering, "there's always a bit of anxiety and tension for law enforcement and first responders and public safety, because with a larger crowd, changing behavior risks present themselves.

"So we're excited to see it. I love the conversations that I've had over the last five days. But this is the type of thing that keeps me and every officer up at night hoping that we don't have something like this actually happen ... but I know one thing for certain: No one was shot last night, and you have Chattanooga Police officers, in part, to thank for that."


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