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The arrests of two armed men during George Floyd protests in Chattanooga — one white, one black — have raised questions from activists and community members over the disparity in bond amounts and charges.

Trevan Young, 29, and Kevin Leko, 35, were both arrested after police found them with guns at or near ongoing demonstrations about the May death of Floyd, a black man who died under the knee of a white police officer in Minneapolis.

Young, a black man, was arrested Monday after police said they received a credible tip that there was an armed individual with possible intent to do harm to people attending the local protest. Police said they found a disassembled AR-15 concealed in Young's backpack with multiple AR-15 magazines, two of which were loaded and easily accessible to him.

With Leko, a white man, police got a call on Wednesday about a man standing atop a building along the protest route in the 1400 block of Market Street with what appeared to be an assault rifle. In his bag, police said, they found an AK-47 rifle, two 9mm handguns and a revolver, all of which were loaded. They also reported finding a broken-down PA-224 and various loaded magazines for each weapon with the exception of the revolver.

Leko also had six beers in his bag and appeared to be very intoxicated, based on his speech, movement and the smell of beer on his breath, police said.

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Kevin Leko / Hamilton County Jail

Young was charged with possession of a firearm with intent to use it for harm, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. His bond was set at $8,000. Leko was charged with possession of a firearm while under the influence. His bond was set at $3,000.

While many have praised police for erring on the side of caution, many others — both activists and community members — have questioned why the men were treated differently and defended Young, arguing that he couldn't have hurt anyone if the gun was disassembled and that he was peacefully participating in the protests.

Photos show Young participating in the protest earlier that day. But police have said he was walking alone when they spotted him and arrested him.

"Trevan Young was arrested while peacefully demonstrating," Wolfe Harris, a friend of Young's, said in a Facebook comment to Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke. "His rifle was disassembled and it was not loaded. He was not drunk. He was not aiming at protesters. His bail was ... higher. He has three charges, not one. He is also black. Answer for the disparity of charges."

According to a 2018 study on racial bias in bail decisions published in The Quarterly Journal of Economics, black defendants are 3.6% more likely than white defendants to be held on bail, as opposed to being released on a cashless bond. And, on average, black defendants receive bail amounts that are $9,923 greater than white defendants.

So why did the men receive different charges and assigned different bonds? Many questions remain unanswered, as the investigations remain open and both men have yet to appear in court for a preliminary hearing.

Given that facts that are known, the two cases aren't really that similar, local attorney Robin Flores said.

In Young's case, Chattanooga police "received credible tip from a community member that we had an individual coming down into the demonstration armed with a rifle with an intent to possibly do harm to people attending that event," Chief David Roddy said during a news conference Thursday.

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Trevan Young / Photo provided by the Chattanooga Police Department

While Tennessee's gun laws contain many caveats to firearm prohibitions and undergo minor changes quite often, it is illegal to carry a firearm with the intent to use it for harm. The tip officers received specified a possible intent to harm those in the crowd.

A defense to that would be if the rifle was unloaded, not concealed and the ammunition was not in the immediate vicinity of the person or weapon, according to state law.

Young's gun, while disassembled, was in his backpack and had multiple loaded magazines that were "easily accessible," police say.

Young also reportedly ignored officers' commands to stop and then resisted arrest and didn't comply with police orders, according to court documents, which is what led to the disorderly conduct and resisting arrest charges.

In a video of the arrest, Young is seen being taken into custody by a group of several officers as he hugs a lamp pole and screams, "They're going to f — — kill me! They arresting me for no reason. I didn't do anything! What are you doing?"

Whether the evidence is strong enough to indict Young will have to be addressed in court.

It would be different if Young was openly carrying his weapon, Flores said.

"Now, you might say he was scared," he said. "That's why he didn't bring it in. But, to me, it doesn't make much sense, because he breaks it down, has got two full magazines, he sneaks it in in a backpack. And then, you know, he can put it together pretty quickly ... If the police were working off a credible tip, then I would say no, it's not a disparity in treatment."

With Leko, police say they haven't received any evidence that he definitively made threats of violence or pointed his gun at anyone. And, according to police, Leko "completely complied" when ordered to drop his bag and get on the ground.

But Leko already "appeared to be very intoxicated" and had six beers in his bag. It's illegal to possess a firearm while intoxicated in Tennessee, regardless of whether a person has a permit. That's what led to his charge: possession of a firearm while under the influence.

When it comes to bond amounts, Tennessee lawmakers have listed nine factors to consider. That includes a defendant's employment status, family ties, reputation, prior criminal record, nature of the offense and risk of danger to the community.

Both Leko and Young have no criminal record in Hamilton County, according to online court records.

"[Judges are] weighing the balance between this defendant's rights and the community's need to feel safe and secure and doing the very best they can to make a hard decision," Penny White, professor of law with the University of Tennessee College of Law, has previously told the Times Free Press.

Contact Rosana Hughes at rhughes@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6327 with tips or story ideas. Follow her on Twitter @Hughes Rosana.

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Photo courtesy of Jamison Colston / Trevan Young and Jamison Colston are seen at Chattanooga's George Floyd protest on the night of Monday, June 1, 2020.
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Photo courtesy of Jamison Colston / Trevan Young is seen at Chattanooga's George Floyd protest on the evening of Monday, June 1, 2020.
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