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Police Arrest, Detain Air Force Vet for 26 Hours After He Posted Alton Sterling Shooting Video

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Last week, an Air Force veteran named Chris LeDay posted the first video of the police shooting of Alton Sterling to go viral. LeDay obtained the video from a friend of a friend. He shared the video with some 10,000 followers on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Soon after the video went viral, LeDay says he was detained at his job at the Dobbins Air Reserve Base. Police then led him from his job in shackles and held him for 26 hours. He was then released after paying $1,200 in traffic fines. LeDay now feels his job is in jeopardy.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: For the past week, protests against police violence have spread across the country. Tens of thousands have taken to the streets. Hundreds have been arrested. The protests began in the wake of the fatal police killings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota. Today, we are looking at a side of the Baton Rouge story that has received little attention: what happened to the individuals who filmed and distributed the shocking videos of Sterling’s death.

AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to Chris LeDay, who joins us from Atlanta, Georgia. He posted online the first video of the Alton Sterling shooting that went viral. He obtained the video from a friend of a friend. He shared the video with some 10,000 followers on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Soon after the video went viral, LeDay says he was detained at his job at the Dobbins Air Reserve Base. Police then led him from his job in shackles, held him for 26 hours. He was released after paying $1,200 in traffic fines. Chris LeDay now feels his job is in jeopardy. He’s joining us in Atlanta.

Chris, welcome to Democracy Now! Explain what happened, how you got the videotape of the police killing of Alton Sterling and what happened after you posted it.

CHRIS LEDAY: Thank you for having me, first of all. And originally, I’m from Baton Rouge, so that’s why this hits close to home. I just live in Atlanta. I received the video from a girl who knew the young lady who shot the video. And being that I have a platform that I knew we could put it on to try to make it go viral, that was the main goal for me from jump. And, you know, like I said, Louisiana, we always have a high public corruption rate. You know, we have the highest prison rate per head in the world. So, it just goes to show how they always try to, you know, keep us in prison. A lot of oppression goes on. When I got the video, the main thing I wanted to do was just put it out there, because it was a cold-blooded case of murder, clear-cut. And I wanted to put that on display for everyone to see, so these cops could stop getting away with this type of ordeal.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And when you said that you posted it because of the platform that you have, how have you amassed this significant following on the various social media?

CHRIS LEDAY: I’m a musician, and I’m rooted in the community. You know, I helped a lot of other musicians that are popular now amass success with their careers, as well. So that’s how I gained my following, strictly through the music business and a lot of work that I’ve done in the area.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: So then, after posting the video, tell us what happened to you.

CHRIS LEDAY: I was coming back from—I was actually in New Orleans the night that the shooting happened. And the very next day, when I received the video, I went—you know, I was headed back to Atlanta that day to go to work. And when I come into work, you know, the protocol is—I don’t have an official badge yet, so—because I’ve been at the job about a month. And, you know, the job was so flexible, to the point where they said I was able to work whenever I wanted to, which was one of the key factors of me taking that job. And, you know, the protocol is, if you don’t have the paper, the paper that gets you on and off the base, all you have to do is show your ID, and you call the person from the job to come up front and escort you on, which I did. And I noticed that they were taking a long time with my identification. And as time passed, I saw my co-worker come up front to the gate, and they would not let him come near me. They ended up keeping him about 40 to 50 feet away from me. And when I tried to ask what was going on, they asked me to stand in a certain area. So, literally, I’m just, you know, confused as to why it’s taking me so long to get on base, because I’m really just trying to go ahead and go to work.

And after about 30 minutes passed, I decided that—you know, I see all these extra cops coming up. There’s more and more cops showing up. So I decided to take action into my own hands, and I put it on Facebook. I tagged my mother and my father, and I let them know. I said, “Hey, you know, I’m surrounded by cops right now, both city and military. I’m not really sure what’s going on. But I want to let you guys know that if anything happens, I’m not resisting,” and basically letting them know that I was being cooperative, because these days you can’t really trust the cops, just point blank. So, I didn’t know what was going to happen next.

So I asked the cop, I said, “Am I being detained?” And he said, “Yeah.” And I said, “Well, for what?” And he said, “We’ll let you know here shortly,” which is illegal to be detained without even letting us know what’s going on. So they still didn’t give me a charge for why I was being detained. They come back several minutes later and tell me that I have an open warrant in Dunwoody, Georgia, for assault and battery, as they’re putting the cuffs on and somebody’s reading me my rights. So, instead of me overreacting, I stayed calm, because I’m 6’3”, I’m 270 pounds. I didn’t want to give them a reason to slam me or put their hands on me, aside from putting the cuffs on me. And I kind of just chuckled, and I was like, “I’ve never been arrested for this a day in my life.” So it was all a shock to me.

AMY GOODMAN: Then what happened?

CHRIS LEDAY: Well, they escorted me—Dobbins Air Force Base did not have a official jail cell, so they took me to their headquarters and put me in a room for over an hour and a half. So I’m, you know, questioning them about this charge, and they know little to nothing about how this charge came about. The cop told me also earlier that I fit the description. And that was as vague as he was: I fit the description. I’m like, “The description of what?” He didn’t follow up on that. They never said what I fit the description of. All they told me, eventually, was about the case that I had for assault and battery, which I’ve never been arrested for in my life. So after an hour and a half passed—

AMY GOODMAN: Are you still in shackles?

CHRIS LEDAY: Not yet. At this point, I’m just in handcuffs. So, they wait for Dunwoody police to show up. And the Dunwoody cop shows up, and he has all of my charges on paperwork—I mean, on his paperwork. So I just so happened to look over my shoulder and look down at the paperwork, and I see that there’s no aggravated assault and battery on there, it’s only traffic tickets that I had from a couple of years ago that needed to be paid. And I asked about the assault and battery charge, and I said, “Well, what happened to it?” And they simply said, “Oh, well, I guess not.” And they left it at that.

So, the Dunwoody cop then decides to take it a step further. As they’re swapping out handcuffs, he asks me to see my legs. So I’m wondering why he wants to see my legs. He puts shackles on my legs to escort me from the military base to DeKalb County prison. And before I walk out the door, I said—I looked at the cop who was in charge, which was a black man at the time, and I said, “Really, bro?” I said, “2016, and you’re all still allowing us to get shackled?” And the guy put his head down, and he didn’t really have a response. He just put his head down and shook his head. And they escorted me to jail.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: So, they came to a military base, arrested you, shackled you, and it was all over traffic tickets, soon after you posted this video?

CHRIS LEDAY: Yes, sir. And the crazy thing is, an investigative reporter called me last night, and he said he called Dunwoody police to get down to the bottom of it, and Dobbins said that Dunwoody was looking for me and that they told them that they attached my name to the base and they knew I was coming to work that day, so when I came, they should hold me. Dunwoody police told the investigative reporter that they never were looking for me. You know, it was just a case of the—you know, which was strange to me, because when it’s a traffic situation, you know, if they catch you in traffic and you just so happen to run your name, then that’s a different story. But nobody sets up a sting operation to detain somebody for traffic tickets. And that’s the thing that I’m trying to make people realize.

AMY GOODMAN: And so, Chris, did they ever mention to you the video that you posted online?

CHRIS LEDAY: They never did mention it. However, DeKalb County told me that I wasn’t able to bond out, even though it was traffic tickets. They said I had no bond, and they were very adamant about it. Customarily, you get to see a judge the next day for things of that nature. And they told me I would have to wait until next Wednesday, which would have been a full seven days away, to see a judge for this case.

AMY GOODMAN: And so, what happened?

CHRIS LEDAY: My son’s mother, her mom is a lawyer. She ended up calling around and getting down to the bottom of it. All Dunwoody wanted was the $1,200 that I owed them in traffic fines to send the paperwork over to release me. But DeKalb County was pretty adamant about saying I still didn’t have a bond. So, essentially, they dressed me out; they ended up putting me in the orange jumpsuit. They assigned me to my own cell with a cellmate. They ended up fully processing me for something that I should have been able to just pay and get out of jail for. They ended up fully processing me. And at this point in time, I’m just playing the waiting game. So I just ended up going to sleep in the back and just waiting until, luckily, they sent the proper paperwork through and they ended up letting me go. But they didn’t—they never said anything else about an assault and battery charge. They never said anything about anything—any of the other matters that took place beforehand.

AMY GOODMAN: Have you gone back to work on the military base?

CHRIS LEDAY: My job is still up in the air. And it’s contingent upon the same people who arrested me, for them to clear me to be able to come back on the base. So my job, when I spoke to my supervisor the following day, you know, they do a strict background check. It’s called a security clearance. You have to have a security clearance to be able to work around these military planes. And he said, you know, “We know you’re prior military, so we figured you knew better than to omit such information.” And I was like, “Exactly. I wouldn’t omit that—pretty much that information of that magnitude. I would never leave that off of my security clearance, if did have an assault and battery charge.” So, the guy even told me—my supervisor, I’m speaking of—he said, “We wouldn’t even worry about traffic tickets. That wouldn’t have affected your job in the first place.” So, now—

AMY GOODMAN: You served in the military?

CHRIS LEDAY: —I’m just playing the waiting game.

AMY GOODMAN: You served in—

CHRIS LEDAY: Yes, ma’am, I was U.S. Air Force, and I served in the OIF.

AMY GOODMAN: So, are you sorry you posted the video of the police killing of Alton Sterling?

CHRIS LEDAY: Not at all, because the main thing—the main thing I wanted to do was try to help the Sterling family get justice, and use my platform to put these cops on display. I think it was an atrocity, and they handled it wrong. It was a clear-cut case of murder, in my opinion, even though I’m not an expert. But I saw his kid crying, you know, his son crying on television, and that really broke my heart, because, you know, I have three children, and I’m very active in their life. But specifically, I have two boys, you know, and us as being black men in this country, especially in Louisiana, it feels like it’s almost illegal to be black. And it just broke my heart to see him crying for his father, who he will never see again, you know, all due to negligent police behavior. And something has got to be done about it.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to turn, actually, to that moment when Alton Sterling’s family addressed the media. This is Quinyetta McMillon, the mother of Sterling’s son Cameron, who’s 15—Cameron, the child. At the beginning of the press conference, Cameron consoled his mother as she spoke, but after a few minutes, he broke down into the arms of supporters standing behind the two of them.

QUINYETTA McMILLON: The individuals involved in his murder took away a man with children, who depended upon their daddy on a daily basis. My son is not the youngest. He is the oldest of his siblings. He is 15 years old. He had to watch this, as this was put all over the outlets, and everything that was possible to be shown.

AMY GOODMAN: That is Cameron, the 15-year-old son of Alton Sterling, crying at the news conference next to his mother, Quinyetta McMillon, who was speaking. I wanted to get your thoughts, Chris, and then Abdullah Muflahi, who knows—who knew Alton and the family.

CHRIS LEDAY: My thoughts on that, just hearing that audio clip, I almost cried just now, you know. I couldn’t imagine not being able to come home to my kids, you know. And just sitting in jail that one—those 26 hours, you know, my boys had to stay with my daughter’s mom from a previous relationship. And all they kept saying was, you know, “I just want my dad. I just want my dad.” And I’m sitting in jail over something that I didn’t do, basically for exposing the underhandedness of BRPD cops and that lowdown murder that they just committed on camera. And when I heard that they said that their body cameras fell off, that’s a cop-out. That’s a complete cop-out. And they need to be held accountable for it. And we see what they’ve done. And it hurts.

AMY GOODMAN: Abdullah Muflahi in Baton Rouge, how long did you know Alton Sterling for? And did you know his family? Did you know his 15-year-old son Cameron?

ABDULLAH MUFLAHI: I’ve known him for six years. And, yes, I know his son. His son was at the store with him a few weeks ago on Alton—on his dad’s birthday. He came out with his dad. And after they left the store, they went to the movies together.

JOEL PORTER: You also need to be aware that Mr. Muflahi has also—

AMY GOODMAN: Joel Porter.

JOEL PORTER: —has received death threats. He’s received all type of negative hate on social media. And so, we need to get behind Mr. Muflahi. We need to protect him. He’s only an innocent victim in this matter, yet he’s being held responsible for what Baton Rouge city police officers did.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Mr. Porter, has there been any reaction or communication between the Baton Rouge Police Department and yourself since your client was first grabbed and then released?

JOEL PORTER: None whatsoever.

AMY GOODMAN: Abdullah Muflahi, do you feel you were right in making sure that the video that you took got out and was seen, by giving it to a TV station?

ABDULLAH MUFLAHI: Oh, certainly, definitely.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you all for being with us. We will certainly continue to follow what is happening with the family of Alton Sterling, with the protests that are taking place in Baton Rouge, and in both of your cases, Abdullah Muflahi, who owns the Triple S convenience store outside which police killed Alton Sterling, and Chris LeDay in Atlanta, who got the second video online to show the police killing of Alton Sterling. Thanks so much for being with us, as well as Abdullah Muflahi’s attorney, Joel Porter.

This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. When we come back, well, it’s been two years since Eric Garner was killed by police in a chokehold in Staten Island. We’ll be joined by Eric Garner’s daughter Erica, as well as the Rolling Stone reporter Matt Taibbi. Stay with us.

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