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Surveillance Videos Exonerate Nathan Pinkney; Incriminate Carlos Zapata

There were times during the last 59 days when Nathan Pinkney nearly lost hope. He wondered if his memory of the May 4 assault upon him at his former workplace, the Market Street Blade & Barrel restaurant, was accurate.

During those nearly two months of wondering and waiting for the Redding Police Department to finally release the surveillance video that he knew would surely exonerate him, he endured accusations that he — a 32-year-old African American comic, cook and Black Lives Matter activist — was a liar.

It was his word against his three alleged assailants. Alleged assailant No. 1 was 42-year-old Carlos Zapata, militia member and co-founder of the ultra-conservative Red White and Blueprint movement that’s documenting an attempted recall of three Republican Shasta County supervisors. Alleged assailant No. 2 was 40-year-old Elizabeth Bailey, a Zapata employee who works at his Palomino Room restaurant in Red Bluff (also the daughter of Nadine Bailey, a prominent fixture in North State Republican politics and rural issues). Finally, alleged assailant No. 3 was 45-year-old Chris Meagher, Bailey’s boyfriend, also known on social media as Red Red, someone with a history of criminal activity and violent encounters. (By the way, Meagher’s name is pronounced Meyer, like the lemon, not meager, as in deficient in quantity or quality.)

For 59 days, Pinkney wondered if the surveillance videos would ever become public.

Today is that day.

Yesterday A News Cafe received the surveillance videos, not from RPD, but from an anonymous source who leaked the videos to ANC for exclusive review. The most salient moments have been broken into separate videos.

While there is no audio, the images are clear enough for any reasonable person to conclude that Pinkney had told the truth all along, and Zapata had not.

Although Pinkney knows his journey to justice isn’t finished, having access to the surveillance videos is a giant step in the right direction.

“The public being able to see this footage will fully vindicate me from the lies that Carlos Zapata, his associates, and Sgt. Garnero of the Redding Police Department told about me,” he said.

“It will vindicate me from the lies that County Supervisor Les Baugh posted to his social media. It will show that I was wrongfully terminated. It will show that I was the victim, as I have been stating this entire time.”

In late April, Pinkney, a comic who satirized Zapata and his Red White and Blueprint organization, received a threatening message from Zapata saying he intended to come to Pinkney’s workplace to tell Pinkney exactly how funny Zapata thought he was. Pinkney asked Zapata to not do that.

On May 4, which happened to be the same day when RW&B received news that it was being investigated by the state for campaign finance violations, Carlos and Rebecca Zapata arrived at the restaurant at 7:40 p.m.

Carlos Zapata looks in the direction of the surveillance camera while his wife looks ahead.

Video  No. 1 : Carlos enters the Market Street Blade & Barrel Restaurant – Tues., May 4, 7:40 p.m.

At 8:39:29 on the video, Pinkney, wearing a baseball cap, exits the kitchen and walks behind the bar to speak to the bartender. According to Pinkney, he did not initiate a conversation with Zapata, and in fact, made a point to keep the bartender between himself and Zapata.

Zapata’s murky glass scenarios: Accidentally spilled, backhanded or intentionally thrown?

For Pinkney, when it comes to describing what happened next, there is no ambiguity. He said that Zapata picked up his glass of water and threw the entire glass at Pinkney, and with it, called him a “faggot”. The glass broke. Pinkney was soaked.

However, in a recent Red White and Blueprint podcast, Zapata joked about the incident at the restaurant, and re-enacted his version by explaining he was simply sweeping his arm, and in the process he backhanded the glass, as if to shoo Pinkney away from him and his wife.

Asked about Zapata’s backhanded explanation, Pinkney laughed.

“No, that’s a lie,” Pinkney said. “He picked up the glass and threw it at me. He didn’t accidentally slap anything.”

While Pinkney’s version of the glass-throwing event has remained consistent, Zapata has altered his story about the glass throwing/spilling/backhanding incident a number of times in the last two months.

Quoted in the LA Times, Zapata said alternately that he “accidentally” knocked the glass over, and that he was attempting to “de-escalate” the situation.

In a May 6 Redding Record Searchlight story,  Zapata admitted that he’d thrown the drink, with the excuse that he was “provoked” because Pinkney was standing too close and wouldn’t leave them alone.

Finally, Zapata told KRCR’s Mike Mangas that he “splashed a drink” on Pinkney.

Although Zapata was out of camera view during the event with the glass, the surrounding customers’ body language is telling. Some of them seem to freeze, while one man at the far end of the bar stands up and makes a sideways motion with his thumb, as if telling Zapata to leave. Zapata’s wife displays zero emotion or reaction, and remains completely impassive, only using a finger to wipe her face twice, as if perhaps some of the drink splashed on her, too. The bartender can be seen saying something to Zapata, who then abruptly stands up and exits the restaurant, pushing through the door, leaving his wife to trail behind him. (8:40:18 p.m.)

Video No. 2 & 3 – Pinkney behind the bar, Zapata throws the glass
Bar splash, second angle

One source noted that Zapata, a frequent customer at the Market Street Blade & Barrel Restaurant, routinely favors available seats toward the center of the bar. However, on the evening of May 4 Zapata uncharacteristically selected a stool at the far end of the bar, virtually out of view of the surveillance camera. Consequently, there is no surveillance footage of the incident involving the glass. According to Pinkney, the Redding Police Department has witness statements from people who saw the exchange between Zapata and Pinkney, but that information is still unknown as RPD has yet to release an official police report.

“At least five people saw it, including the bartender,” Pinkney said.

Video 4: Meagher searches back parking lot –

Although not shown on these selected videos, at 8:42 to 8:43 Pinkney and a co-worker ventured outside to see if Zapata was still on the premises.

At 8:46:18 Chris Meagher, the boyfriend of Elizabeth Bailey, Zapata’s Palomino Room employee, is seen on the video walking around the uninhabited parking lot, seeming to look for something. What’s notable is that Meagher was not a customer at the restaurant that evening, and so his presence begs the question: What business did Meagher have behind the Market Street Blade & Barrel restaurant at that moment, minutes after Zapata assaulted Pinkney at the bar with a beverage glass?

Across the street, an eyewitness viewpoint

Meanwhile, across the street at a neighboring restaurant, 1724 Downtown Bar and Grill, a patron there that night recalled that Bailey rushed inside the restaurant, and stayed just a few minutes before asking the bartender if it was OK to keep her purse behind the bar for safekeeping, after which she went across the street to the restaurant where Pinkney worked, and where Zapata had just thrown a glass at Pinkney.

“She said Carlos was across the street,” the customer said. “Then when Liz got to the door she turned around and said, ‘I have my lawyer on speed dial if needed.”

Zapata, Bailey and Meagher converged upon Pinkney: Video 5 – Parking lot view

Thirty-five seconds after Meagher was no longer seen in the surveillance footage of the restaurant’s rear parking lot, Pinkney is spotted in the video walking outside with his cell phone. According to Pinkney, he was upset that Zapata had thrown the drink at him, and was trying to contact him. Pinkney is seen walking and talking on his phone, a towel tucked in his waistband, heading across the parking lot away from the restaurant.

“I was basically wondering ‘wtf’ and telling him to not come back,” Pinkney said.

The video shows that at 8:47:30 one of the restaurant’s other kitchen employees joins Pinkney outside. At 8:48:11, less than one minute later, off to the far left of the screen a trio of figures can be seen briskly walking through the dark toward Pinkney and his colleague.

It takes a few seconds for Pinkney to realize what’s happening, and he and his co-worker turn and head for the building.

As he looks back on that night, Pinkney remembers what was going through his mind.

“I was a bit scared when I saw Carlos as I’m not a fighter, and he literally trains fighters,” Pinkney said, adding that he was imaging what the group had in store for him.

“They were going to beat me, or worse,” he said. “I don’t know. Maybe there were going to knock me out and put me in a nearby vehicle. I don’t know.”

The three people heading in Pinkney’s direction were Bailey, Meagher and Zapata, spreading out and walking rapidly toward the restaurant’s employees. In the video, Pinkney’s co-worker is ahead of him, but the advancing trio quickly covers the space between the group and Pinkney, with Pinkney checking over his shoulder as he picks up speed heading for the restaurant.

The trio fans out, with Meagher seen on the frame’s left, Bailey in the center and Zapata on the screen’s right. The group nearly overtake the restaurant workers as the two men finally reach the door. Bailey takes the lead, and can be seen reaching and pulling, which Pinkney later explained as when Bailey grabbed his shirt and ripped it in an attempt to drag him back outside to the parking lot.

From this camera viewpoint Bailey is seen standing and watching as Meagher and Zapata gain entrance through the restaurant’s back door where there’s a flurry of arms. In the ruckus, Meagher punches Pinkney.

The trio breeches the restaurant: Video 6 – View from inside the the back door

On the video, once Pinkney and his co-worker return to the restaurant’s back door, and what they hoped would be relative safety, Bailey takes control and grabs Pinkney by his shirt to pull him outside. When that fails, Meagher rushes in and smashes Pinkney in the face.

Pinkney recalled how quickly things happened once inside the back door.

“It seemed like it all happened so fast, and I didn’t see the punch coming at all,” he said. “I’m surprised it didn’t knock me down.”

In the video, after Meagher hits Pinkney, he grabs a large CO2 canister from the floor near the door, and heaves it overhead. At that, Pinkney leaves the frame to retrieve a legally registered weapon he’d kept locked at work.

“When you see Chris pick up the CO2 canister, I run off camera,” Pinkney said. “That’s when I grabbed my firearm.”

The video ends when the restaurant’s chef wades into the fracas, waves his arm and appears to be telling the trio to leave.

Zapata’s biggest lie

Of all the lies that Zapata has told about the night of Pinkney’s assault, it’s not whether he threw a water glass or splashed water or accidentally backhanded water onto Pinkney. The biggest lie was when Zapata was quoted in a KRCR interview about what happened after the threw the drink on Pinkney.

“My wife and I left the restaurant and apparently he had an altercation with somebody else who I do not know.”

Look at the videos, above. See Carlos with Meagher and Bailey. Hear what Bailey had to say when she told the bartender across the street to hold her purse, and keep her lawyer’s number on speed dial, because Carlos was across the street. Most of all, consider that Bailey is Zapata’s employee, and Meagher is her boyfriend. Zapata not only knows them, but it appears he convinced them to commit a crime against Pinkney. No doubt, if Meagher and Bailey tire of holding Zapata’s bag of lies, things could get interesting if they decide to sing like canaries and leave Zapata blowing in the wind.

Bailey and Meagher return for Bailey’s purse after the assault

The customer at 1724 Downtown Bar and Grill recalled what happened shortly after Bailey had left her purse with the bartender.

“Then later they came back as I was leaving,” the customer said. “They were super amped, and I told my dad that I’ve never seen them act like that before; something serious has happened.”

It wasn’t until the customer arrived home a short while later and saw Pinkney’s Facebook video in which he described the assault that he made the connection between what Bailey had said, and how she’d acted, and Pinkney’s assault.

“Nathan had the video where he was describing everything,” the customer said.

The tipping point: The attack on Old Man Bob

On June 25, nearly two months after Meagher and Bailey assaulted Pinkney and went about their business with seemingly not a care in the world, let alone fear of charges or arrest by police, they were involved in another assault. This time it happened at The Tropics, affectionately known as a dive bar on Market Street in Redding, just a few blocks from Pinkney’s former place of employment.

Photo source: The Tropics Facebook page.

There were similarities to Pinkney’s attack: There was a surveillance video, and the video appeared to show, once again, that Bailey seemed to take charge, followed by Meagher’s brutal assault.

This time, Meagher’s victim, Robert Hazel, a 73-year-old hearing impaired man, lost consciousness after Meagher slammed the elderly man against the side of the building multiple times. Hazel required CPR and a trip to the hospital. He survived, and is home recovering with his dog.

But this time, instead of the surveillance video being locked up tight with RPD where it could languish forever and a day, the video was leaked to none other than Nathan Pinkney. Why? Well, perhaps the person who leaked the video knew Pinkney’s history with Meagher and Bailey, and perhaps the person who leaked the video knew that Meagher and Bailey’s behavior was so egregious that it required consequences. Pinkney shared that video with A News Cafe, which broke the story about it, and other media followed suit. Oh my goodness, what a difference a public surveillance video makes!

Compare and contrast, shall we? First consider that since RPD has had the surveillance video of the assault upon Pinkney for nearly two months, in that time there have been no arrests, and RPD still hasn’t released an official police report about the incident.

Compare that to The Tropics case, and an arrest before the weekend’s end, and by the Monday following the Friday assault the Shasta County District Attorney announced that she’d filed charges for not just Meagher and Bailey’s assault upon Hazle, but while DA Stephanie Bridgette was at it, we got a twofer when she also filed charges related to the the May 4 case against Meagher, Bailey and yes, the previously Teflonian Zapata.

Voilà!

On May 19, Redding Police Capt. Jon Poletski was quoted in the online publication, “TPM” (Talking Points Memo) saying that the Zapata/Pinkney altercation was a “politically charged event,” and that the police wanted to “stay out of the fray”.

Guess what, RPD? Like it or not, I’m afraid you’re in the deep end of the fray, and the only way to swim out of it is to start behaving as if you protect and serve all your citizens, not just hot-tempered militia members who’ve dabbled in the business of bull and taught officers jujitsu.

At the moment, RPD’s refusal to release the May 4 surveillance (moot now, so don’t bother) gets it an F on RPD’s public relations’ score card. The fact that on the one hand, RPD managed to arrest Meagher for the June 25 assault within days (which was a good thing), but on the other hand RPD hasn’t done diddly squat in the way of arrests for those who assaulted Pinkney two months ago, looks mighty bad.

To spell it out in black and white, it appears that RPD went full speed ahead with an arrest when the victim was an old white guy, but RPD fell asleep at the wheel when the victim was a young black man.

Surveillance video proved that Nathan Pinkney was assaulted by Carlos Zapata, Chris Meagher and Elizabeth Bailey.

What’s it all about, Carlos?

And to recap, why did Zapata feel the need to come to Pinkney’s place of work to terrorize him? Because Zapata was angered by Pinkney’s satirical videos and memes, especially those in which Pinkney portrayed Buford White, patterned after Zapata.

Pinkney was rattled enough by the assault at his workplace that he filed for and was granted a temporary restraining order.

Since May 4, despite that restraining order, Zapata has continuously claimed his innocence, while also calling Pinkney “boy” a monkey and liar, as well as broadcasting the statement that Pinkney is unemployable in a way that borders on a damning job reference.

A new day for Pinkney, but the damage is done

Pinkney wants to get on with his life, but he can’t shake the damage done by RPD’s initial news release that caused so many people to doubt and vilify him.

Pinkney harbors special disappointment in the officer who wrote the release that contained, as the L.A. Times pointed out, “several inaccuracies with the police version of events.”

“He made my life pretty miserable writing that,” Pinkney said of an RPD officer. “People are still using his false statement as the backbone of their hatred towards me, and he caused that directly and on purpose.”

Zapata’s a sinking ship

Meanwhile, Zapata’s popularity is a wobbly three-legged stool, and it appears that soon, Zapata won’t have a leg left to stand on. He’s losing fans, friends and followers as each new story discloses increasingly unsavory information about him.

For example, Courtney Krieder, Red White and Blueprint’s former media person and an unabashed Carlos admirer, abruptly left RW&B following the organization’s first big $100-per person fundraiser at Harmon Ranch in Palo Cedro that boasted 700+ “patriots”.

Then there’s Mitchell Johnson, who owns The Tropics bar, who seemed previously proud to post on Facebook a photo of Zapata and himself standing outside The Tropics. But this week in a Redding Record Searchlight story, Johnson staunchly defended Robert Hazel, the elderly patron who’d been beaten unconscious outside The Tropics by Meagher and Bailey, Zapata’s friends who also assaulted Pinkney.

And even Pinkney himself — long before the assault and prior to Pinkney’s satires about Zapata — posed with Zapata at a bar after the men had conversed and had what Pinkney believed at the time was a meeting of the minds. (And by the way, notice that’s Elizabeth Bailey photobombing the guys’ selfie; the woman Zapata has claimed to not know.)

Finally, even one of Zapata’s sister-in-laws spoke out on Facebook about her brother-in-law this week in the wake of the District Attorney’s charges:

“The trash always takes themselves out. Such a disgrace, and huge embarrassment. This is the man my oldest sister is married to and defends. He is a domestic terrorist, and she has become his crony. To say it’s heartbreaking an understatement. She has become someone l/we do not even recognize. All because this POS.”

A commenter responded to the sister-in-law, saying the Zapata she’d known had changed to a liar and a cheater.

“Sorry to hear. He was a truly great man! Whom we all loved and respected!”

Still, there remain some people who continue to cling to Zapata, seemingly despite the threats, the lies, and even despite learning things they hadn’t known about Zapata, such as the fact that he co-owned a strip club in Tampa, Florida, or that he advocated blood in the streets and boasted about being violent.

Or that he’s capable of having people do his dirty work, like showing up at a comedian’s workplace and overseeing a violent assault, Godfather style. And when the going gets tough, Zapata hires an expensive out-of-town lawyer, while Meagher sits in the Shasta County Jail, with his future in the hands of a public defender.

Zapata’s public image is sagging, but some of his diehard supporters are rallying around him.

One Zapata believer even created a page to raise funds for the RW&B leader’s possible mounting legal fees. In the fundraiser description, Zapata was painted as someone victimized by a retaliatory District Attorney.

Of course, Zapata can lie, but he can’t hide, because too many people know too much about him, and his checkered past will follow him wherever he goes, like bull crap on a cowboy boot.

 

Truth belongs to the truth-tellers

When Zapata was interviewed once again by the L.A. Times for a June 29 story, Zapata said, “The truth will come out, “a sentiment he repeated in a KRCR interview after RPD released its statement after a preliminary investigation that did not result in any charges:

“The truth always prevails,” Zapata said. “I knew I would be vindicated once the video footage was presented. Every so often the good guys still win.”

Today, the truth did prevail. And although Zapata is wrong about many things, he’s right about one thing: Every so often the good guys do still win.

Zapata is not a good guy. And Zapata is not a winner. He’s a loser who lies.

Meanwhile, while Zapata is fond of saying he always gets the last laugh, today Pinkney might beg to differ. While Pinkney does feel a sense of vindication and relief to know the surveillance videos have exonerated him, the fact remains that Pinkney’s life remains a mess because of the assault.

“This situation has left me jobless as well as homeless,” he said.

“When they attacked me, I was in the middle of moving in with a former coworker who changed their mind after I was wrongfully terminated. These people don’t seem to be capable of believing anything other than what they want to. I imagine people will say that the footage is somehow “altered” or a “deep fake” – and to that I say that Carlos and his team have the exact same footage and got it long before we did, and if they feel anything was left out, they are free to upload the video themselves. This has been a hard-fought battle with much more to endure.”

Even so, remember back in May, when A News Cafe reached out for a statement from the owner of Market Street Blade and Barrel? The reply was no comment; that the truth could come out eventually.

Today is eventually. And it’s a very good day for truth and Nathan Pinkney.

Doni Chamberlain

Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain is an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, California.

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