MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO/AP) — Charges were filed Monday against the four men arrested last week for shooting Black Lives Matter protesters near Minneapolis’ 4th Precinct, where demonstrations have been on-going since the fatal police shooting of Jamar Clark earlier this month.
Court documents say one of the men, Allen “Lance” Scarsella, of Lakeville, has repeatedly admitted to shooting the five protesters, all of which suffered non-life-threatening wounds. Prosecutors charged Scarsella with five counts of second-degree assault and one count of second-degree riot. He faces a minimum of 18 years in prison if convicted.
The other three men — 26-year-old Daniel Macey of Pine City, 27-year-old Joseph Backman of Eagan, and 21-year-old Nathan Wayne Gustavsson of Hermantown — are charged with one count each of second-degree riot with a dangerous weapon and face a minimum of three years in prison if convicted.
Prosecutors say that on Nov. 19 Scarsella and a man identified in court documents as J.S. made a video on their way to the 4th Precinct encampment. On the video, J.S. waives a handgun and the two make racially-charged statements about the protesters. The video ends with J.S. saying, “stay white.”
Criminal complaints say J.S. decided not to return to the 4th Precinct on Nov. 23, because he felt it would be too dangerous. On that night, Scarsella and the others got into an altercation with the protesters and shots rang out shortly after.
The victims, all black men, suffered non-life-threatening injuries.
Immediately after the shooting, Scarsella called J.S. and told him that he had just shot five people, the criminal complaint states.
Investigators say Scarsella also admitted that he shot the protesters to his girlfriend and to a friend of his who is a Mankato police officer.
On his Facebook page, Scarsella features an early Confederate flag, and, according to prosecutors, he had racist images on his phone.
At a press conference announcing the charges Monday, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman says it’s clear the shootings were racially motivated.
“The defendants’ own statements, their video shows they are sick people,” Freeman said.
Three of the men charged are white. Macey is Asian.
Freeman was challenged at the press conference by community member Greg Demmings who said the assault and riot charges are not enough.
“I think it should be first-degree intentional attempted murder,” Demmings said.
Freeman stressed that the charges he brought are the strongest he felt he could prosecute at this point.
He said more serious charges, including possible federal hate crime charges, could be filed at a later date.
The evidence against the three other men charged shows that they were with Scarsella at the time of the shootings and exchanged text messages with him both before and afterword.
All four men are expected to make court appearances on Tuesday. The county attorney’s office has asked that bail for Scarsella be set at $500,000 and $250,000 for the other three.
Protesters have maintained a presence outside the 4th Precinct since Clark, 24, was shot Nov. 15 by police and died a day later. They’ve vowed to stay until authorities meet their demands, which include the release of video of Clark’s shooting.
Wesley Martin, 18, who was injured in the Nov. 23 shooting, was among roughly two dozen people at the encampment Monday morning. He said city officials can do what they want, but protesters will continue to stand their ground.
“They can have the street. We can take the sidewalk,” he said. “To be honest, we’re not going nowhere.”
Clark died in a confrontation with police who were responding to an assault call in which Clark was a suspect. Police say they arrived to find him interfering with paramedics trying to treat an injured woman. They say a scuffle followed and Clark was shot once in the head.
Some community members have alleged Clark was handcuffed when he was shot, which police have disputed. State and federal investigations are underway.
One of the officers involved was sued just 10 days before Clark’s death, for allegedly using excessive force during an arrest four years ago.
The lawsuit alleges that Dustin Schwarze, who was working as a Richfield police officer, used a stun gun on a passenger in a vehicle that was pulled over by Richfield officers in December 2011. It also accuses Schwarze of threatening to beat that passenger and another if they exited the vehicle.
Two other officers and the city of Richfield also are named in the lawsuit, which gained media attention when it was moved from Hennepin County District Court to U.S. District Court last week. Daniel Kurtz, an attorney for Schwarze, said the plaintiff in the 2011 traffic stop had kicked an officer in the face, and the officers used reasonable force to arrest him.
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