LOUISVILLE, Kentucky—After several hours of deliberating on May 27, a federal jury found all-black militia leader John Johnson guilty of threatening police officers with his AR-15 rifle during a Sept. 4, 2020, protest in Louisville.

Some members of the militia, Not [Expletive] Around Coalition (NFAC), hung their heads after the verdict was read, while others shed silent tears. Johnson remained expressionless as Judge Benjamin Beaton explained that he’ll remain in custody at least until his Aug. 22 sentencing hearing.

Johnson faces up to 20 years in prison for being found guilty of aiming his rifle at law enforcement officers with the intent to assault or intimidate them.

“I love you all,” Johnson said to NFAC members as officers led him away to be taken to prison.

“Black power!” the NFAC said in unison, fists raised in the air.

Outside the courthouse, emotions were palpable.

“Don’t talk to any of my people,” an NFAC member told reporters.

Johnson’s attorney, Donald Meier, declined to comment. He confirmed that he’ll be filing a written motion for appeal and retrial.

The weeklong trial for Johnson centered around roughly 10 seconds of surveillance footage showing the militia leader exiting a vehicle, turning on a flashlight attached to his rifle, and scanning a nearby rooftop before walking on to a nearby park.

Prosecutors said Johnson was intentionally brandishing his weapon at five officers conducting rooftop surveillance, while the defense said he was only using his flashlight to see who was up there.

Johnson took the stand the afternoon of May 26 to tell his side of the story.

The defendant told the jury about his background as a former radio operator for the U.S. Army, an ordained pastor who preached to prison inmates, and a social activist. He said he started his all-black militia “to defend my race.”

Johnson stressed that the NFAC is not affiliated with Black Lives Matter, and that one of his concerns throughout 2020 was keeping his group separate from other protestors so the NFAC wouldn’t be tarred by their activities.

“We’re not protestors. We demonstrate a military formation to send a political statement,” he said.

The prosecution cross-examined Johnson the morning of May 27, pointing to inconsistencies between his testimony the day before and what the surveillance footage shows. Johnson told the jury that he was a passenger in the vehicle he exited before pointing his rifle at law enforcement, while the prosecution pointed out that he was, in fact, the driver of the vehicle.

During closing arguments on May 27, Meier told the jury that the U.S. government was “making a mountain out of a molehill” by devoting federal resources toward prosecuting his client over an innocuous incident.

However, prosecutors played several clips of Johnson making threatening statements toward police officers, presenting it as evidence that the black nationalist knew exactly what he was doing when he pointed his rifle at officers.

After closing arguments, the jury took about two hours to reach its unanimous verdict.


Ken Silva covers national security issues for The Epoch Times. His reporting background also includes cybersecurity, crime and offshore finance – including three years as a reporter in the British Virgin Islands and two years in the Cayman Islands. Contact him at

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