MINNEAPOLIS - A jury on Wednesday convicted a Minnesota man of assault for opening fire and wounding five mendemonstrating against the fatal shooting of a black man by Minneapolis police officers.
Allen Scarsella, 24, of Bloomington, was found guilty on all charges of assault and riot. Scarsella showed no emotion as the Hennepin County jury’s verdict was read.CBS Minnesota reports that the jury deliberated for seven hours.
Scarsella was accused of shooting and injuring the five African-American men at a Black Lives Matter protest after the police shooting death of Jamar Clark in 2015.
Scarsella and three other men, all wearing face masks, went into an encampment outside a police station in north Minneapolis to livestream Black Lives Matter protests that had closed down a city block. Scarsella, who has a permit to carry a concealed weapon, brought a .45-caliber handgun and fired at demonstrators in what his attorneys say was self-defense.
CBS Minnesota reports that jurors saw numerous text messages Scarsella sent friends, including one saying, “Cool – the gun I’m getting is proven to kill black guys in a single shot.”
Prosecutors argued that the shootings were racially-motivated. The station reports that Scarsella was identified in a video taken the night of the shootings waving a handgun and making racially-charged statements about the Black Lives Matter protesters. In one video that was shot in a car while Scarsella and a friend were driving to an earlier protest, Scarsella is heard saying he is “on a mission” and “locked and loaded” while holding a gun.
Prosecutors accused the men of being white supremacists and trying to disrupt the protest. Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said his office will seek “the stiffest possible sentence” for Scarsella. He is scheduled to be sentenced on March 10 and could face up to 19 years in prison.
Scarsella, who is white, testified he was afraid of being attacked while filming the protest on the night of Nov. 23, 2015. He said a group of protesters accused him of being in the Ku Klux Klan and that someone had already punched him in the face. Scarsella said he and his friends tried to leave the protest but a group of men followed them and one pulled out what appeared to be a weapon, prompting Scarsella to open fire.
Only one of the five victims attended the trial. Cameron Clark, 26, Jamar Clark’s cousin, was shot by Scarsella in the right leg. Clark said he remembers Scarsella provoking protesters with racial slurs and luring a group of black men up the street where he turned and shot at them.
Clark attended parts of Scarsella’s testimony and said he had “butterflies” in his stomach before the verdict was read Wednesday afternoon.
“I was kind of really thinking that (the jurors) were going to be on his side and they were going to let him go because he was claiming self-defense,” Clark said afterward.
Clark and another victim - Tevin King - sustained bullet wounds near major arteries. Hennepin County Assistant Attorney Judith Hawley said King was shot in the abdomen and that the bullet is too close to his arteries to be removed. Injuries ranged from leg, arm and foot to stomach and back wounds.
The three other Minnesota men with Scarsella at the time - Daniel Macey of Pine City, Nathan Gustavsson of Hermantown and Joseph Backman of Eagan - are charged with second-degree riot and aiding an offender. All three have pleaded not guilty and await trial. In December, attorneys for the three men denied that their clients are racist. Macey is Asian, the others are white.