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Grandmaster Jay pleads guilty to wanton endangerment charges

John F. Johnson, AKA Grandmaster Jay, pictured right is the founder of the NFAC Coalition
Ryan Van Velzer
John F. Johnson, AKA Grandmaster Jay, pictured right is the founder of the NFAC Coalition

The founder of a Black militia that participated in some of the 2020 racial justice protests over the police killing of Breonna Taylor has pleaded guilty to five counts of wanton endangerment in Jefferson Circuit Court on Thursday.

The charges stem from an incident where John F. Johnson, AKA Grandmaster Jay, pointed an assault rifle at five police officers in September 2020.

He will serve a one-year sentence that will run concurrently with a seven-year federal sentence for assaulting, resisting or impeding officers and a separate count of brandishing a firearm in relation to a violent crime.

Johnson is the founder of the “Not F****ing Around Coalition, a Black militia that participated in racial justice protests in Louisville in 2020 calling for justice for Breonna Taylor, who was killed in her home by Louisville police earlier that year. Johnson has said the purpose of his organization is to educate Black Americans on their constitutional rights.

Prosecutors said Johnson pointed a flashlight mounted on an assault rifle at federal agents and Louisville Metro Police officers staged on rooftops around Jefferson Square Park on September 4, 2020. Though none of the officers drew their weapons in response, prosecutors said officers feared Johnson might accidentally or intentionally fire his weapon.

Following Johnson’s federal sentencing, racial justice advocates said he was treated unfairly, and that prosecutors wanted to make an example out of him because he was the leader of a Black militia.

During Johnson’s first large-scale protest in the city in July 2020, he stood on the steps of Metro Hall surrounded by an armed militia and threatened to burn down the city. During the event, three militia members were struck by gunfire after an accidental discharge ahead of the demonstration.

This story has been updated.

Ryan Van Velzer is the Kentucky Public Radio Managing Editor. Email Ryan at rvanvelzer@lpm.org.

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