Militia member and two others charged in Northern California attack on BLM activist
Three people, including a high-profile Northern California militia member, have been charged in an attack on a Black Lives Matter activist at his workplace, the Shasta County district attorney’s office announced this week.
Carlos Zapata, an outspoken member of the Cottonwood militia, has been charged with misdemeanor battery and disturbing the peace by fighting in connection with a May altercation with Nathan “Blaze” Pinkney, a BLM activist and budding comic.
Facing the same charges are Elizabeth Bailey, an associate of Zapata, and her boyfriend, Christopher Meagher.
Pinkney said he was relieved that charges had been filed, nearly two months after the incident took place.
“I’m glad it actually happened,” Pinkney said Monday. “I think it’s good.”
Zapata said Monday that he did not assault Pinkney, but was rather attempting to de-escalate the situation. Zapata said that surveillance video of the incident, which has not been publicly released by police, would show him attempting to pull Meagher and Bailey away from Pinkney.
“The truth is going to come out,” said Zapata. “This is all political because I am part of a movement, a conservative movement.”
For months, Pinkney has been making political parody videos of Zapata, a leader in an effort to recall a trio of Republican Shasta County supervisors who supported Gov. Gavin Newsom’s pandemic health orders. Pinkney has vocally opposed the recall.
Tensions are rising in Shasta County, where a far-right group wants to recall supervisors, has threatened foes and bragged about ties to law enforcement.
On May 4, Pinkney was working as a line cook at the Market Street Blade and Barrel restaurant in Redding when he spotted Zapata at the bar.
Soon after the two saw each other, Zapata threw a drink at Pinkney, and it escalated from there, according to police. Zapata said Monday he accidentally knocked the glass over, but that night, Pinkney ended up with a black eye after Bailey and Meagher allegedly assaulted him inside the rear entrance of the restaurant while Zapata was present, according to police and interviews with people involved.
The fight heightened tensions in Redding, a conservative city where residents have been divided over health risks posed by the coronavirus, the power of government and the degree to which armed citizens should take matters into their own hands.
Speakers at supervisors’ meetings have threatened violence. Opponents of the far-right, as well as supporters of pandemic health measures, say they are afraid to speak out and fear retribution. Militia members have attended racial justice rallies carrying concealed weapons.
Zapata, a 42-year-old Marine Corps combat veteran and owner of the Palomino Room bar and restaurant in nearby Red Bluff, has been at the center of the fray.
He is producing and starring in a documentary series, called “Red, White and Blueprint,” that is centered on the recall effort, and warned in one online video that he and other militia members were collecting “intelligence” on people who reported businesses defying health orders.
On the night of the altercation, Zapata left the restaurant in his car but received calls and texts from Pinkney, he told The Times. Bailey said she called Zapata to return after he had left.
Police issued a statement soon after the fight that omitted some facts and contained information that conflicted with details provided to The Times by those involved and witnesses. Redding Police Capt. Jon Poletski later clarified details to The Times, including where the assault took place and what led up to it.
Poletski said Bailey and Meagher confronted Pinkney just inside the back hall of the restaurant, after Bailey allegedly grabbed Pinkney’s shirt at the doorway. Zapata was present with Meagher and Bailey, according to police.
Meagher stepped inside the restaurant, Poletski said, where he punched Pinkney in the face and hoisted a large carbon dioxide cylinder and held it toward Pinkney and his co-worker.
The co-worker, a Black man, said he heard the N-word repeatedly during the confrontation. Unsure if he was being targeted, he said he punched Meagher, which police confirmed. Poletski also confirmed that the police investigation documented racial slurs uttered during the encounter.
Pinkney, who lost his kitchen job over the incident, obtained a temporary restraining order against Zapata on May 6.
Pinkney’s lawyer, Lisa Jensen, attempted to have the order served for weeks through the local sheriff’s office before finally enlisting an associate to serve Zapata at his daughter’s high school graduation. Zapata said he had relinquished his weapons to a local gun store, as required by the order.
The district attorney filed the charges Monday morning, two days after Meagher and Bailey allegedly were involved in another assault incident at a local bar, The Tropics. In the latest incident, a 73-year-old victim, Robert William Hazel, had been assaulted and knocked unconscious, according to a court document and Redding police. Police said they identified Meagher, who left the scene, from surveillance video and arrested him Sunday.
A Shasta County supervisors’ meeting was faced with verbal threats to government officials and talk of civil war.
In that incident, Meagher, 45, is charged with felony assault by force likely to produce great bodily injury, felony elder abuse and personal infliction of great bodily injury. Bailey is also charged in that attack with being an accessory after the fact.
Pinkney said an anonymous source provided him with the surveillance video from The Tropics over the weekend, which he posted online. In the video, a male and female assailant are seen confronting the man as he walks past them with his dog.
Seconds later, the male assailant slams the man three times into the wall of the building, apparently knocking him unconscious. The assailants then walk away as the man lies on the ground with the dog at his feet. Another patron of the bar allegedly performed CPR when the man was found. Police said he was transported to a hospital and later released.
Pinkney said the victim was known around the downtown Redding area as Old Man Bob and described him as a partially deaf pool player often seen in slacks and a dress shirt visiting local bars.
Reached Monday, Bailey said she had not been contacted by police, and learned of the charges through news and friends. Bailey said she and Meagher confronted the elderly man because they believed he was mistreating his dog.
“Chris got upset and shoved him against the wall,” she said.
Bailey also disputed the events as described by investigators and Pinkney around the fight at the restaurant and said she was receiving threats based on the incidents.
Shasta County Sheriff’s records indicate Meagher remained in custody Monday on $150,000 bail. An arraignment was scheduled for Monday afternoon.
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