Metro Louisville

The leader of the Black militia NFAC has been arrested for brandishing a rifle at federal officers in downtown Louisville on the eve of the Kentucky Derby. 

Authorities arrested John F. Johnson, aka “Grandmaster Jay,” on Wednesday at his home in West Chester, Ohio.  

Johnson appeared before a federal judge in Louisville Wednesday on charges of assaulting federal task force officers, according to the U.S. Attorney Russell Coleman. A detention hearing is scheduled for Friday. 

“The FBI respects the rights of individuals to peacefully exercise their First Amendment rights. Our mission of protecting the American people and upholding the Constitution is dual and simultaneous, not contradictory,” Coleman said in a statement. 

On the evening of September 4th, Johnson and other members of the NFAC visited protesters in Jefferson Square Park ahead of a planned march the following day during the Kentucky Derby.

That night, federal authorities say, Johnson pointed an AR-style rifle at federal task force officers and LMPD, who were surveilling the protests in the park from the roof of the Jefferson County Grand Jury Building. 

Officers said they were “blinded” by a light that came from the flashlight mounted on Johnson’s rifle and were concerned Johnson could either accidentally or intentionally fire his weapon, according to a press release. None of the officers drew their weapons in response, according to the complaint. 

The FBI’s Louisville Division and LMPD are investigating the case. Johnson faces up to 20 years in prison if he is convicted.  The case falls under the purview of the task force U.S Attorney General Bill Barr launched in June to combat anti-government extremism.

In July, Johnson and his militia group, formed earlier this summer, descended on Louisville with more than 200 armed members to call for justice and transparency into the investigation of the police shooting of Breonna Taylor. 

During that protest, there was an accidental discharge of a weapon that left several people injured. On September 5th, Johnson and the NFAC marched outside of Churchill Downs during the Kentucky Derby without incident. 

Ryan Van Velzer is WFPL's Energy and Environment Reporter.