This is a tale of two men with guns. Except its not a tale. It's real life. And it's wrong. It's wrong on so many levels. One man is black and the other is white.
The black man, Trevan Young, was arrested on June 1 during a largely peaceful protest against police brutality in the wake of the death of George Floyd, who was pinned under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer for nearly nine minutes back in May. Young, 29, was carrying an unassembled AR-15 rifle and multiple magazines of ammunition in a closed backpack that was on his back when police stopped him.
Remember: It's legal to have a gun and carry it and conceal it in Tennessee. That's one of the wrongs right there.
Now to the second wrong. If it's legal, and it was within Young's right to carry the gun, and video shows he was peaceful, why was he stopped and arrested and charged?
Circumstances, you say? Police say so. Police claim they were acting on a tip that there was a likelihood for potential violence at the protest. They noticed Young fit the description given by an anonymous tipster of a man seen leaving the Douglas Heights apartments with an AR-15 and several magazines while walking toward Miller Park, according to Hamilton County court documents. Police claim that an officer yelled at Young to stop and come talk to me. Twice. Young ignored the officer. The officer grabbed his hand, and Young was taken to the ground and handcuffed.
Brie Stevens, an organizer of the protest, said she watched nine officers surround him. She said people were never in danger from Young. She said the aggressive arrest of Young was unnecessary and demonstrated the kind of treatment of black suspects that was and is being protested.
Young was taken to the Hamilton County Jail where he was booked on a $8,000 bond. He is charged with possession of a firearm with intent to use it for harm, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. He is expected in court on June 22.
Which brings us to the second man. The white one.
Kevin Leko, 35, was arrested two days later during a protest. He was standing atop a building along the protest route — holding a loaded assault rifle.
In a bag near him, police said they found more guns: an AK-47, two 9mm handguns and a revolver — all loaded. Police also found an unassembled PA-224 and various loaded magazines for each weapon with the exception of the revolver.
And did we mention that police noted Leko had six beers in his bag and already "appeared to be very intoxicated," based on his speech, movement and the smell of beer on his breath.
Leko was charged with possession of a firearm while under the influence.
The black man, with one disassembled gun in his backpack on his back and not in his hands, was charged with possession of a firearm with intent to use it for harm — and disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. (That was not what witnesses saw, mind you, and 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?") His bond was set at $8,000. His car was seized. His apartment was searched and items there were seized, according to his attorney, McCracken Poston.
The white man, with a loaded gun in his hands and five other loaded guns and a sixth unloaded one in a bag beside him as he stood overlooking the protest route, was changed with possession of a firearm while intoxicated. Period. His bond was set at $3,000.
Who seems more likely to have a gun with intent to use it for harm?
Trevan Young was — according to still more video surveillance along the protest route — peacefully protesting.
Kevin Leko was holed up on his roof with a loaded arsenal and a stash of beer. Police said they hadn't received any evidence that he definitively made threats or pointed his gun at anyone, though neighbors told them they were concerned and so did a protester, who reported him. According to police, Leko "completely complied" when ordered to get on the ground.
Trevan Young is an honorably discharged veteran of the U.S. Army, "where he served our country as a Signal Intelligence Analyst in the 18th Airborne Corps, 525th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade, and has no criminal record," Poston said.
Leko, reported by Bradley County's Cleveland Daily Banner to be the owner of a gym and construction company there, told police he "had been feeling very anxious lately because of the protests in town that had gone by his apartment building." He also has no criminal record.
Young was afraid of police. Leko was afraid of protesters. Both had guns. They were not treated or charged equally.
Young's friend Wolfe Harris wrote on Facebook: "Trevan Young was arrested while peacefully demonstrating. 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."
Yes, police and judges, please answer. And answer for this, too: A 2018 national study on racial bias in bail decisions published in The Quarterly Journal of Economics found blacks are 3.6% more likely than whites to be held on bail, as opposed to being released on a cashless bond. And, on average, blacks receive bail amounts that are $9,923 greater than whites.
Tell us this doesn't lend still more understanding for why protests have roiled our country.