The founder of an all-Black armed activist group is facing a federal charge after the FBI alleges he aimed a rifle at federally deputized task force officers during a September rally in Louisville, Kentucky.
FBI agents arrested John Fitzgerald Johnson, the founder of the Not F**king Around Coalition who is also known as Grand Master Jay, Thursday at his home. The 57-year-old appeared before a federal judge in Louisville later that afternoon, and the judge appointed the Office of the Federal Defender to represent him.
Johnson did not immediately respond to CNN’s requests for comment, and the head of the defender’s office declined to comment. A combined preliminary and detention hearing is set for Friday. If convicted, Johnson faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.
Officers with the FBI, Louisville police and the Secret Service were watching demonstrators September 4 at Jefferson Square Park during a protest related to the killing of Breonna Taylor, the FBI said in a news release. A probable cause affidavit states that a Louisville Metro Police Department radio transmission told officers a group of “six to eight heavily armed individuals” were near a parking garage.
Police and task force officers (TFOs) went to the roof of the Jefferson County Grand Jury building to watch the people when some of the officers were blinded by a light, according to the federal complaint. They determined the light was coming from a flashlight mounted to “an AR platform style rifle” that Johnson was aiming at them, it alleges, noting officers recognized Johnson after seeing him earlier in the day and previously in videos he’d posted on social media.
“The officers and TFOs advised they all perceived a threat from Johnson based on him aiming his rifle at them,” the complaint reads. “All officers advised they were concerned Johnson might intentionally, or even accidentally, discharge a round at them.”
After Johnson raised and aimed his rifle, two officers backed away from the roof edge, the complaint states. About “30 seconds after Johnson aimed his rifle at them,” an officer left the building and met with Johnson and another NFAC contact, the document says.
A surveillance video reviewed by the FBI shows Johnson at street level “shouldering his rifle and aiming the rifle at the officers on the Jefferson County Grand Jury Building,” the complaint states. Another surveillance video shows the same, plus Johnson’s “rail mounted flashlight can be clearly seen as ‘on,’” it says.
The FBI Louisville Division and LMPD are investigating this case, which falls within the purview of the attorney general’s task force on anti-government extremism. The task force is dedicated to supporting the investigation and prosecution of “any person or group who commits violence in the name of an anti-government ideology,” the FBI release said.
“The FBI respects the rights of individuals to peacefully exercise their First Amendment rights,” said James Robert Brown Jr., FBI Louisville special agent in charge. “Accordingly, we are committed to investigating violent behavior and those who are exploiting legitimate, peaceful protests and engaging in violations of federal law.”
NFAC is an all-Black, Atlanta-based group
Johnson founded the NFAC in 2017. The all-Black, Atlanta-based group has grown in size amid a summer of protests against violence on Black people, including deaths at the hands of police.
The group has marched in Stone Mountain, Georgia, calling for the removal of the nation’s largest Confederate monument; in Brunswick, Georgia, for Ahmaud Arbery; in Louisville, demanding more transparency in the Taylor case; and in Lafayette, Louisiana, in the name of Trayford Pellerin.
NFAC intends to protect, self-police and educate Black communities on firearms and their constitutional rights, Johnson said in October.
“We are not against anyone,” said Johnson. The group is made up of “US citizens exercising our constitutional rights and the color of our skin shouldn’t make any difference,” he said.
Prior to his activities with the NFAC, Johnson served in the military, and some knew him as a hip-hop DJ and producer.
CNN’s Nicole Chavez, Ryan Young, Melissa Alonso and Angela Barajas contributed to this report.