MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The four men charged in the 4th Precinct protest shooting are slated to make their first appearances in Hennepin County court on Tuesday.
On Monday, prosecutors charged the alleged shooter, 23-year-old Allen “Lance” Scarsella, with five counts of second-degree assault and one count of second-degree rioting. If convicted, he faces a minimum of 18 years in prison.
The other men charged — 26-year-old Daniel Macey of Pine City, 27-year-old Joseph Backman of Eagan, and 21-year-old Nathan Wayne Gustavsson of Hermantown – each face one count of second-degree rioting.
According to criminal complaints filed in the case, Scarsella admitted to several people – including his girlfriend and a high school friend who is now a police officer in Mankato – that he shot five people on Nov. 23.
Evidence shows that the other three men were with Scarsella before and after the shooting. Officials said online chat logs on 4Chan and Reddit showed the men were plotting to go to the 4th Precinct protests to “stir things up” and “cause a commotion.”
Videos also featured Scarsella in a car en route to the protest one night, his companion is seen brandishing a gun and ends the video with the words “stay white.”
On the night of the shooting, Scarsella and the others got into an altercation with protesters before shots rang out. Five black men were hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries.
At a press conference on Monday, County Attorney Mike Freeman said the four men are charged with the harshest penalties the evidence allows. Even so, he faced several questions from reporters about why the defendants weren’t charged with hate crimes.
While he called the men “sick people” and said it’s clear the shootings were racially-motivated, Freeman explained that hate crime charges, at least in Minnesota, aren’t as serious as the crimes the men are currently charged with.
He did stress, however, that federal authorities could still charge the men with hate crimes and that Scarsella’s assault charges could be upgraded depending on the medical records of the victims.
Bail for Scarsella was set at $500,000 while bail for the rest was set at $250,000.
The protests at the 4th Precinct are still on-going. They started after the fatal police shooting of 24-year-old Jamar Clark on Nov. 15.
Witnesses say Clark was in handcuffs when he was shot in the head. The police union disputes that, saying there was a struggle and Clark grabbed an officer’s gun.
Protesters say they’ll stay outside the 4th Precinct until all video of the shooting is released and the case is stopped from being presented to a grand jury, which, protesters say, typically exonerate police in fatal shooting cases.