Four men have been charged in a shooting at a Black Lives Matter protest in Minneapolis last week, and the prosecutor said he believes it was racially motivated.
Alleged gunman Allen Scarsella, 23, is charged with five counts of second-degree assault and one charge of second-degree riot, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced Monday.
Five people were wounded when gunfire erupted after a confrontation during protests Nov. 23 over the fatal police shooting of Jamar Clark, 24, police said. None of the injuries were life threatening.
None of the four are charged under state hate crime statutes, but asked if the shooting is believed to have been racially motivated Freeman replied, "Oh, yes," citing video the suspects recorded.
"The language they use and how they talk about fellow Americans, citizens, people — is just not acceptable," Freeman said. The current charges carry more potential penalties than hate crime charges would, he said.
Joseph Backman, 27, Nathan Gustavsson, 22, and Daniel Macey, 26, were charged with one count each of second-degree riot, but are not alleged to have shot any one. Police described Macey as Asian and the others charged as white.
Attorneys for Macey and Backman denied their clients are racist, The Associated Press reported, and a lawyer representing Gustavsson said there’s no evidence he had a gun.
Court documents allege the group planned to go to the demonstration and confront protesters, and then post video to social media, NBC affiliate KARE 11 reported. Demonstrators said several people were forcing the group away from the protest when shots rang out.
Asked whether shooting suspect Allen Scarsella could make a self-defense claim, Feeman said, "We anticipate he may do that. Based on the evidence we see to date, it will not be successful."
Protesters have set up a camp outside the Minneapolis Police Department’s 4th Precinct in protest over the Nov. 15 shooting of Clark, who was unarmed.
Freeman said the investigation into that shooting remains ongoing, and said any video recorded of the shooting would not be released before any charging decision is made, as some protesters have demanded.
Scarsella is being held in lieu of $500,000 bail. Gustavsson was being held in lieu of $250,000 bail and Macey was being held in lieu of $100,000 bail Tuesday night, according to jail records. Backman posted $250,000 bail and was released Tuesday, according to the jail.