Chris LeDay was one of the first people to post the video of Alton Sterling being killed by police outside a Baton Rouge convenience store.
About 24 hours later, he said, he found himself surrounded by police, with guns pointed at him.
LeDay was arrested on multiple traffic charges, but authorities told The Washington Post that — despite the curious timing — the arrest was unrelated to LeDay’s posting of the video.
LeDay insisted from the beginning that the arrest was a form of retribution.
Three weeks later, he claims he has paid his traffic violations but still hasn’t been allowed to return to his job as an aerospace ground equipment technician at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta, Ga.
“There aren’t any charges, he never had a warrant for an assault,” LeDay’s attorney, Tiffany Simmons, told ABC affiliate WSB-TV on Thursday, referring to a rumored warrant that never materialized. “My client has never had any criminal history.”
“He should not be penalized or possibly retaliated against, he should not be embarrassed at his place of employment for doing what is right,” Simmons added, calling LeDay a “good Samaritan.”
LeDay’s ordeal began when he was handcuffed, shackled and arrested after arriving at his job at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta, more than 500 miles from where Sterling, a black man, was killed one day earlier by a white Baton Rouge police officer.
“I just made it to my job on base and I’m being detained,” he wrote on Facebook July 6. “They said I fit the description of someone and won’t tell me anything else. If anything happens I did not resist! Please be aware!”
His arrest reminded some observers of Ramsey Orta, the man who filmed the police chokehold death of Eric Garner in New York — an incident that made national news in large part because of the video, which captured Garner’s final words: “I can’t breathe.”
After recording Garner’s death on July 17, 2014, Orta claimed he was targeted by police. Earlier this month, the New York Daily News reported that the 24-year-old will probably spend four years in prison after accepting a plea deal in a drug and weapons case from 2014.
“Sometimes I regret just not minding my business,” Orta told Time a year after filming the video that helped mobilize a national protest movement. “Because it just put me in a messed-up predicament.”
After his arrest, hours after sharing the video of the fatal police shooting in Baton Rouge, LeDay claimed on Facebook that he was told he “fit the description” of someone wanted on an assault and battery charge in Dunwoody, Ga. Later, he said, police changed their story and told him he was being arrested for failing to pay outstanding traffic tickets.
“They totally overlook the fact that I was arrested for ‘fitting the description’ and ‘you have an assault and battery charge in Dunwoody, GA’ which by the way I HAVE NEVER COMMITED OR EVEN HEARD OF ….. and go straight to ‘well you shoulda paid those traffic tickets’ really?” he wrote. “Lmao really? Lol wow!!! Yeah trafffic tickets will get you 25 to Life I guess.”
LeDay told the website Photography Is Not a Crime that he spent the night in jail and was released after paying $1,231 in fines. He said he couldn’t afford to cover the unpaid traffic fines that led to his latest arrest and had been relying on Uber to get to work.
“The whole thing was super-fishy,” LeDay told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution after his arrest.
“Expose the truth and you somehow become the bad guy,” he wrote Tuesday on Facebook.
Attempts to reach LeDay were not successful.
According to DeKalb County Jail booking records, LeDay was held overnight after being arrested for failure to appear.
Mark Stevens, a community outreach officer with the Dunwoody Police Department, told The Washington Post that LeDay was initially arrested two years ago for “various traffic charges.” But he failed to show up for a court date several months later, prompting officials to issue a warrant for his arrest.
Stevens said his department was informed last week by another law enforcement agency that LeDay was in the area and an extradition was agreed upon.
“Why it happened on that day, I can’t tell you,” Stevens told The Post. “I don’t know what kind of interaction he had with other law enforcement officers.”
“Anybody that has contact with law enforcement, the general policy is to confirm with the original agency that the warrant is valid and determine whether they’ll transport the person,” Stevens added.
Leday’s attorney isn’t buying the timing of the arrest.
“Anything is possible, however, it is quite fishy that this happened to my client literally 24 hours after he uploaded the video,” Simmons told Fox affiliate WAGA-TV.
After both criteria were met, the decision to arrest LeDay was made, Stevens said. He was taken into custody on July 6, Stevens said, and released the next day.
Capt. Meredith Kirchoff, a public affairs officer at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, confirmed that LeDay worked for a contractor at the base. At the time, she said, he had been issued a temporary base pass while authorities reviewed his paperwork before issuing him a longer-term pass — a process she called “routine.”
“This is a screening process that we would do for anybody seeking a base pass for work on the installation,” she said. “There’s really nothing out of the ordinary about the process itself, and the fact that the warrant was discovered was part of that.”
When the active warrant was discovered, base officials contacted the Dunwoody Police Department and LeDay was taken into custody, Kirchoff said.
She said that LeDay’s employment is now under review and that he is not currently reporting to work at the base.
Was the timing of the arrest a coincidence? LeDay doesn’t think so, believing it was an act of retaliation, he said in his interview with Photography Is Not a Crime.
LeDay told the website that he was born and raised in Baton Rouge. He found out about the video of Sterling’s death from friends back home who wanted to publicize the footage.
The video was posted for the first time on the afternoon of July 5. LeDay followed up with his post later that night, around 8:30 p.m., according to his Facebook page.
With more than 20,000 friends and followers across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, LeDay said, he thought he could get the video to start moving across social media.
The plan worked; within hours, actor Don Cheadle had retweeted the video.
New York Daily News columnist Shaun King, a former figurehead in the Black Lives Matter movement, also shared the footage.
“I wanted everybody to see this video,” LeDay told PINC. “I wanted it to go viral. The police were already saying their body cams fell off and I wanted to show there was video of the shooting.”
But, LeDay told the website, the next evening, he found himself surrounded by at least 10 military police officers, some of whom had M16s in their hands.
He believes the public arrest at his job was an attempt to humiliate him and get him fired.
Still, he told the Journal-Constitution, he has no regrets about helping the Sterling video go viral.
“It’s what I signed up for,” he said.
“We need to diffuse what the cops are doing,” he added to PINC. “They want to say that not all cops are bad but they are not speaking out against the bad cops. It just keeps getting worse and people are getting tired of it. I just want some change to occur.”