Militia, 2 other people indicted in attack on BLM activist
Three people, including a high-profile member of the Northern California militia, have been charged with an attack on a Black Lives Matter activist at his workplace, the Shasta County District Attorney’s Office said this week.
Carlos Zapata, an outspoken member of the Cottonwood militia, was charged with assault and battery and disturbing the peace while fighting in an altercation in May with Nathan “Blaze” Pinkney, a BLM activist and budding comic.
Facing the same charges, Elizabeth Bailey, an associate of Zapata, and her boyfriend, Christopher Meagher.
Pinkney said he was relieved that charges were laid, nearly two months after the incident.
“I’m glad it actually happened,” Pinkney said on Monday. “I think this is good.”
Zapata said on Monday that he had not assaulted Pinkney, but instead was trying to defuse the situation. Zapata said surveillance footage of the incident, which was not made public by police, would show him attempting to get Meagher and Bailey away from Pinkney.
“The truth will come out,” Zapata said. “This is all political because I am part of a movement, a conservative movement.
For months, Pinkney made political parody videos of Zapata, a leader in an attempt to recall a trio of Republican supervisors in Shasta County who backed Governor Gavin Newsom’s pandemic health orders. Pinkney verbally objected to the recall.
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.
Shortly after the two saw each other, Zapata threw Pinkney a drink, and it escalated from there, police said. Zapata said on Monday that he accidentally spilled the glass, but that night Pinkney was left with a black eye after Bailey and Meagher allegedly assaulted him inside the back entrance of the restaurant while Zapata was present, according to police and interviews with those involved.
The fight has heightened tensions in Redding, a conservative city where residents are divided over the health risks posed by the coronavirus, the power of government and the extent to which armed citizens should take matters into their own hands.
Speakers at supervisors’ meetings threatened violence. Opponents on the far right, as well as supporters of health measures in the event of a pandemic, say they are afraid to speak out and fear reprisals. Members of the militia attended racial justice rallies carrying concealed weapons.
Zapata, a 42-year-old Marine Corps veteran and owner of the Palomino Room restaurant and bar in nearby Red Bluff, was at the center of the fray.
He produces and stars in a documentary series, entitled “Red, white and planeWhich centers on the recall effort, and warned in an online video that he and other militia members were collecting “intelligence” on people who reported companies were 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 come back after he left.
Police released a statement shortly after the scuffle that omitted certain facts and contained information that conflicted with details provided to The Times by those involved and witnesses. Redding Police Captain Jon Poletski then clarified details to The Times, including where the assault took place and what led to it.
Poletski said Bailey and Meagher confronted Pinkney just inside the back hall of the restaurant, after Bailey allegedly grabbed Pinkney’s shirt from the door. Zapata was present with Meagher and Bailey, police said.
Meagher walked into the restaurant, Poletski said, where he punched Pinkney in the face and hoisted a large cylinder of carbon dioxide and held it towards Pinkney and her colleague.
The colleague, a black man, said he heard the N word several times during the confrontation. Not knowing if he was being targeted, he said he hit Meagher, which police confirmed. Poletski also confirmed that the police investigation documented racist slurs spoken during the meeting.
Pinkney, who lost her cooking job as a result of the incident, obtained a temporary restraining order against Zapata on May 6.
Pinkney’s attorney, Lisa Jensen, tried to have the order served for weeks at the local sheriff’s office before finally hiring an associate to serve Zapata during her daughter’s high school graduation. Zapata said he turned over his weapons at a local gun store, as required by the order.
The district attorney filed the charges Monday morning, two days after Meagher and Bailey were allegedly involved in another incident of assault at a local bar, The Tropics. In the latest incident, a 73-year-old victim, Robert William Hazel, was assaulted and knocked out, according to a court document and Redding police. Police said they identified Meagher, who left the scene, from surveillance video and arrested him on Sunday.
In this incident, Meagher, 45, is charged with criminal assault by force capable of causing serious bodily harm, mistreatment of the elderly and causing serious bodily harm to people. Bailey is also accused in this attack of being an accomplice after the fact.
Pinkney said an anonymous source provided him with the Tropics surveillance video over the weekend, which he posted online. In the video, a male and female abuser is seen confronting the man as he walks past them with his dog.
Seconds later, the assailant punched the man three times against the wall of the building, apparently causing him to pass out. The attackers then walk away as the man lies on the ground with the dog at his feet. Another bar patron was said to have performed CPR when the man was found. Police said he was taken to hospital and later released.
Pinkney said the victim was known in downtown Redding as Old Man Bob and described him as a partially deaf pool player often seen in pants and a dress shirt in local bars.
Joined on 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 old man because they thought he was mistreating his dog.
“Chris got mad and pushed him against the wall,” she said.
Bailey also took issue with the events described by investigators and Pinkney around the restaurant brawl and said she was receiving threats due to the incidents.
Shasta County Sheriff’s records show Meagher remained in custody Monday on $ 25,000 bond. An indictment was scheduled for Monday afternoon.