WEST CHESTER, Ohio — A militia leader from West Chester goes on trial May 23 in the U.S. District Court in Louisville for "assaulting" federal agents by allegedly pointing his rifle at them during protests in 2020 concerning the deadly police shooting of Breonna Taylor.
John Johnson, aka Grandmaster J, is the founder of the Not F****** Around Coalition (NFAC), an all-Black militia based in Atlanta. He's also facing state wanton endangerment charges for the Sept. 4, 2020 incident.
Johnson pleaded not guilty to all charges.
In a December 2021 interview with AllHipHopTV, Johnson called the charges "bogus."
"You need a lot of resources to fight the U.S. government, especially when you know that you haven't done anything wrong," Johnson said.
"It's certainly significant because it has the potential to put an end to this group," said Mark Pitcavage, a senior research fellow at the Anti-Defamation League's Center on Extremism.
According to prosecutors, federal agents and local police were on the roof of a downtown Louisville building observing the demonstration when Johnson allegedly pointed his rifle at them.
"Johnson claimed, among other things, he had pointed his rifle with his light because he had heard there were people possibly kids with paintball guns on the roofs and they would fire paintball guns at you," according to an FBI affidavit.
The FBI affidavit shows federal agents began investigating Johnson's alleged verbal threats against law enforcement in May 2020.
Johnson's comments were included in a series of YouTube videos, according to the affidavit.
The NFAC gained widespread national attention July 4, 2020, when hundreds of heavily-armed militia coalition members marched at Stone Mountain Park in Georgia. Stone Mountain's rock face features a 90-foot high, 190-foot wide carving of three Confederate commanders.
On July 25, 2020, Johnson and armed members of the NFAC militia participated in their first demonstration in Louisville.
Johnson said they protested in Louisville because authorities had refused to release enough information about the police shooting of Breonna Taylor.
"Our mission has been said over and over again," Johnson told reporters that day. "We are here for the protection of Black people."
Prior to the July 25, 2020 protest, a Louisville police commander told Johnson that "police would be on roofs and to not point weapons at the roofs of building where police were stationed," according to the FBI affidavit.
Despite that warning, the FBI affidavit claims Johnson and an unidentified NFAC member appeared to point their guns at law enforcement anyway — including a police helicopter — during the demonstration.
Law enforcement's concerns about the group grew when an NFAC militia member accidentally fired his weapon in a group.
Johnson said the shooting occurred during a "safety check."
Louisville police said three NFAC members were injured, one seriously.
"They're going to be OK," Johnson told reporters after the incident.
He insisted, "my people performed professionally."
The recently unsealed search warrants in the federal criminal case show federal agents conducted surveillance of Johnson following the July 25, 2020 demonstration.
In one application for a warrant, federal investigators describe Johnson as the target of a "terrorism" investigation. He has not been charged with terrorism.
"It's an extremist group," Pitcavage said. "A Black nationalist extremist group."
The FBI also placed a tracking device on a rental vehicle Johnson was scheduled to pick up at CVG Airport prior to the Sept. 4, 2020 demonstration in Louisville. But Johnson never picked up the vehicle, so the tracking device wasn't used, according to federal court records.
Despite police warnings to not point guns at law enforcement, prosecutors said Johnson pointed his firearm at federal agents and local police officers during the Sept. 4, 2020 protest.
Johnson faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted of both counts at his federal trial.
The I-Team reached out to Johnson for comment, but he did not respond to our requests.