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Is Atlanta homeless man being railroaded over bridge fire?

Basil Eleby is charged with arson. (Photo source: Fulton County Jail)

Basil Eleby is charged with arson. (Photo source: Fulton County Jail)

All of Atlanta is now suffering after a fire destroyed a section of a bridge on the busy I-85 highway in the city. The city’s wrath is now focused on Basil Eleby, 39, a homeless man who police say was responsible for the fire.

Unfortunately, the image of a Black man, homeless and high on crack being the cause of millions of dollars in damage had a factor in the judge setting a $200K bail on a charge of first-degree arson and stating that the bail should be higher based on the damage he caused. There are many social activists in Atlanta who are now calling the charges against Eleby a rush to judgment.

Police allege that Eleby was high on crack when he put a chair on top of a shopping cart and set it on fire underneath the I-85 underpass. But Eleby told investigators that he left the area before the fire started. The fire reportedly spread to supplies left on site by the Georgia Department of Transportation that had been left there for years.

According to GDOT officials, the site contained coils of plastic and PVC piping but these items were not combustible. In fact, there should have been no combustible materials at the site at all. No inventory of what was stored at the site has been released by state or city officials at this time. GDOT officials have stated the site was fenced in but Google map images show a loosely locked fence making it easy for the homeless to enter.

Eleby was in court this past Saturday for a probable cause hearing before Fulton County Judge James Altman. According to reports, Eleby wanted to waive his right to appear in court to hear the charges against him, but the judge denied the request.  Represented by Fulton County public defender Rihanna Bray, who tried to shield his face from cameras, Eleby was a pitiful sight. His hair uncombed, and wearing a prison jumpsuit and flip-flops he was passive and nervous.

There are many questions that are unanswered about the fire and what role Eleby and two others associated with the incident may have had. Before this homeless man is convicted of a crime that will incarcerate him for years, all leads must be investigated.



  1. Binta on April 3, 2017 at 12:25 pm

    I believe the city is trying to shift the blame to this guy when they’re the ones that dropped the ball.

    • SrAgri on April 3, 2017 at 2:39 pm

      FYI, it is probably a states issue and not a city issue. It is an interstate highway and the stored materials were left over from a GDOT project. Unless Georgia works differently than other states, the city has very little say over what happens on interstate right-of-way.

      • Maria NoGames on April 3, 2017 at 2:57 pm

        Yes, more likely the state is pushing the scenario when it is in no way possible. Why can’t the state stand up and take the blame for their own damn mess? Look to the governor and you’ll know why, bad Deal never admits fault but always tries to deflect.

      • Binta on April 3, 2017 at 4:55 pm

        The Fire Marshall should have been able to make a call on this. The city enforces all codes, this should be a Life Safety issue if not a fire code.
        The APD is responsible for keeping vagrants out. (The fence was down that enclosed the materials; who’s responsible for that?)
        I’m fine with GDOT owning up to their negligence as well, however, the reports here are that that area in question was city of Atlanta property.

        • SrAgri on April 3, 2017 at 5:19 pm

          “…the reports here are that that area in question was city of Atlanta property.”
          That’s what I’ve been hearing, too, but I’m rather skeptical unless GDOT is quite a bit different than other state highway departments.

  2. melgoza on April 3, 2017 at 6:39 pm

    The city has to do a better job to allow these crack smokers to have confidence that their illegal actions won’t kill anyone.

    • Mike Gee on April 6, 2017 at 10:32 am

      it wasnt a crack smoker…you should inform yourself before making dumb uninformed statements based off of fake news and agenda seekers. smh

  3. Mike Gee on April 6, 2017 at 10:31 am

    it was isis and the cheeto does not want this news to get out along with the feds. There was a prominent atlanta construction atty killed the next day after filing papers to get all of the info from that explosion. people close stated they heard 3 explosions before it collapsed. Blaming a crack head was just too easy, there are no flammable items stored under the bridge, at least not enough to cause that type of fire. They think we are stupid and are lying to us as usual…dont trust any of them, its a lie to save face. We dropped the ball on protecting people and they dont want to face the backlash.

    • melgoza on April 11, 2017 at 3:54 pm

      Lying sack of crap!!

      • Mike Gee on April 21, 2017 at 11:54 am

        fat ugly sack of crap…..

      • Mike Gee on April 27, 2017 at 8:59 am

        ugly, hideous tranny….