The self-proclaimed leader of the Not F*cking Around Coalition is now facing federal charges after he was indicted by a grand jury in Louisville, Kentucky for allegedly pointing a rifle at police officers last September. 57-year old Jay “Grandmaster Jay” Johnson was first arrested last December, but a grand jury handed down an official indictment against the man on Wednesday.
Johnson and hundreds of other protesters marched for Taylor and rallied outside Churchill Downs during Derby weekend.
Johnson allegedly brandished and aimed “an AR platform rifle” at an FBI agent, a Secret Service agent and three LMPD officers while they were on the roof of a downtown building about 8:30 p.m. Sept. 4, the night before Derby, according to a federal complaint.
A police radio transmission had reported “six to eight heavily armed individuals were parked on Armory Place next to the parking garage structure” and the officers went to the roof of the building, per the complaint.
Three of the officers on the roof were “blinded by a light which they shortly thereafter determined was a flashlight mounted to the rifle being aimed at them by Johnson,” according to the complaint.
The FBI reviewed Real Time Crime Center camera footage taken from the MetroSafe building, according to the complaint, with two screenshots of the incident included in the criminal file.
“Here in Kentucky we revere our First and Second Amendment freedoms, not foolishness which puts police and protesters at grave risk,” then-U.S. Attorney Russell Coleman said in a statement following Johnson’s arrest.
“The FBI respects the rights of individuals to peacefully exercise their First Amendment rights,” Coleman continued. “Our mission of protecting the American people and upholding the Constitution is dual and simultaneous, not contradictory. Accordingly, we are committed to investigating violent behavior and those who are exploiting legitimate, peaceful protests and engaging in violations of federal law.”
In addition to the federal charges, which carry a potential 20-year federal prison sentence, Johnson is also facing five counts of first-degree wanton endangerment in district court in Louisville that stem from the same incident on Derby Weekend.
The Louisville Courier-Journal notes that a Change.org petition calling for charges to be dropped claims that Johnson didn’t know who was top of the parking garage when pointed his rifle and flashlight at the officers, and he was only attempting to “verify the safety of everyone” with his actions.
The petition signers, who call themselves “We The People,” said Johnson planned several “peaceful events” in Louisville last summer “without any arrests of members of the NFAC.”
“Johnson has always made sure he has had the proper permits and licenses to have his events and peacefully assemble within the confines of all local, state, and federal laws,” the petition said.
In a December interview posted on YouTube, Johnson said he is fighting both his federal and state cases.
“You all know they’re doing this to break me financially, because they’re going to drag it out,” he said. “They’re going to throw everything they have at me, because we know this whole thing is bull—-.”
On the surface, Johnson’s cry that his prosecution is bull—- appears to have some merit, but according to an affadavit filed by an FBI agent last December, the NFAC leader was well aware that police would be monitoring the protests in downtown Louisville from nearby rooftops.
According to a criminal complaint filed by FBI agent Daniel McNally, surveillance cameras in the downtown area captured the head of the NFAC pointing his rifle at officers on top of the Grand Jury Building.
Was Johnson aware that law enforcement officers were on the roof of the building when he pointed his rifle in their direction? McNally’s affidavit certainly implies that’s the case, noting that the NFAC leader had been told in briefings with local police that “officers would be on rooftops of surrounding buildings” and that a major with the Louisville Metro Police Department had “admonished Johnson not to point weapons at the officers as it would be perceived as a threat.”…
The affidavit also reveals that the FBI had been keeping an eye on Johnson and the NFAC since late May of this year, when Johnson proclaimed in a series of YouTube videos that people should “assault police officers and then remove the officers’ body cameras to conceal footage of them assaulting officers” and that “the only way to stop police violence is to identify and locate the homes of police, burn the houses to the ground, kill the officer, their family members, and associates.”
I’m somewhat surprised that Johnson was never charged with inciting violence based on his comments last year, but the charges he’s now facing are serious enough that he could be locked up for decades if he’s convicted. At the moment Johnson is relying on a public defender to represent him at his next court hearing on March 17th, but maybe he can ask Vice President Kamala Harris to tweet out a link to help support his legal defense fund.
I support Johnson’s Second Amendment rights to keep and bear arms, though I don’t agree with his politics, but sweeping his rifle across the rooftop of a parking garage when he had good reason to believe that the individuals standing there were law enforcement was a supremely dumb idea. Should it result in a 20-year prison sentence? At the moment, it looks like it’ll be up to a jury of Johnson’s peers to decide, but to me it would be a punishment that doesn’t fit the crime. If a violent felon is caught in illegal possession of a firearm he could be looking at ten years behind bars, but Johnson could do twice as much time for what amounts to an incredibly dumb mistake.