LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - The head of a self-proclaimed militia who protested in Louisville with hundreds of armed followers has been arrested, WAVE 3 News Troubleshooters have learned.
John Fitzgerald Johnson, or “Grandmaster Jay,” was booked into a local facility on federal charges. A statement from the Department of Justice indicated that Johnson, who lives in the Cincinnati suburb of West Chester, was arrested Thursday and appeared before a federal judge in Louisville on Thursday afternoon.
Multiple sources confirmed Johnson was charged for allegedly pointing a long gun at federal agents and Louisville Metro Police Department officers.
The incident happened during a day of protests in September, on one of a handful of visits by the YouTube blogger.
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Less than a minute after the incident, then-LMPD spokeswoman and advisor to the police chief Jesse Halladay was recorded coming out of a nearby building and hugging a member of Johnson’s group. The video was posted on social media and drew criticism from officers across the state. Halladay no longer works at LMPD.
Jean Porter, a spokeswoman for Mayor Greg Fischer’s office, gave WAVE 3 News the following statement about Halladay:
“Ms. Halladay (had) been engaged in communications with various protesters and protest leaders during the course of the Louisville protests. When she met with them, she was unaware of the allegation that one of the protesters had pointed a firearm towards police.”
Johnson identifies himself as the leader of the NFAC, or “No F******* Around Coalition,” a self-proclaimed militia which includes hundreds of members. Johnson’s online videos have thousands of views. He ran for President of the United States in 2016.
The group gathered in Louisville a couple of times to join protests surrounding the death of Breonna Taylor, the 26-year-old Louisville woman shot dead during an LMPD narcotics raid at her home.
At one such visit, one NFAC member accidentally shot himself and two others with his own rifle.
Johnson also was under scrutiny after making public statements some considered threatening, like stating he’d come back to Louisville and “burn it down” if Attorney General Daniel Cameron did not indict the officers involved in the Taylor case.
During a rally in July, Johnson also was quoted threatening to shoot someone who was on top of a nearby building.
“Two o’clock,” Johnson said as he instructed his armed followers next to him to look at the building. “Assume the position.”
“I don’t know who the **** you are,” Johnson continued, “but you’re about to get shot.”
At another point during the rally Johnson told the crowd, “If something happens, and y’all don’t hit the ground, that’s your fault. I’m giving fair warning. My people will defend themselves if attacked.”
He continued, “I’m going to say it publicly. We will not shoot you; we will kill you.”
This is the first time Johnson has been charged with any protest-related activity in Louisville.
Through a series of open records requests, some which took months to receive, WAVE 3 News Troubleshooters learned Johnson served in the U.S. Army beginning in 1997, when he was stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C., and Fort Wainwright, Alaska.
The 57-year-old also spent time in Virginia and Maryland.
Johnson does not have any prior felony convictions, but has had run-ins with federal law enforcement before, according to records WAVE 3 News discovered.
According to records obtained by WAVE 3 News from the Charlotte, N.C., FBI Field Office, in 2003, Johnson was federally arrested and convicted of entering a military property, a misdemeanor. The additional charge of assault within a special territorial jurisdiction was ultimately dismissed, the records show.
If Johnson is convicted, he could spend up to 20 years in federal prison.