MINNEAPOLIS - A jury has found a Lauderdale man guilty of all counts in the shooting of two Somali men.
A Hennepin County jury found 26-year-old Anthony John Sawina guilty of two counts of attempted first-degree murder, two counts of attempted second-degree murder, and five counts of second-degree assault.
The charges stem from an incident in Dinkytown on June 29, 2016, at about 2:30 a.m. According to the criminal complaint, five young men, all dressed in traditional Muslim robes, were in a car headed to Ramadan overnight prayers when they encountered Sawina in the area of 14th Avenue S.E. and 6th Street S.E.
One of the shooting victims, Hussein Gelle, said he and his friends had overheard a "very drunk young man" making disparaging remarks about Muslims.
According to the complaint, the group heard a man yell, "F--- Muslims."
He said they spotted the man in question at the next intersection, and the driver of the car asked the man why he'd been saying those things.
"The man said, 'I didn't say those things. I know a lot of Muslims. I have Muslim friends' and we said, 'That's great!' and so we thought it was over," Gelle recalled.
"But his friend came up and said, 'What if I said (expletive) Muslims? What would you do if I said (expletive) Muslims?' And we told him it was over."
Then investigators say Sawina and another man approached the car and said “What if someone did say that?” Investigators say Sawina then pointed a semi-automatic gun at the car.
In testimony during the trial, some of the victims said they heard Sawina say, "I'm going to kill you all." According to the Hennepin County Attorney, two of the men in the car got out and ran away, and when Sawina began shooting through the open car door, at least one bullet hit the legs of two of the other men.
Sawina said he was acting in self-defense, but after a six-day trial and two days of deliberation, the jury rejected his claim.
The Hennepin County Attorney's Office says video surveillance shows the victims playing basketball. Using receipts from the bars and surveillance video, investigators also identified one of the men from Sawina's group, who gave them Sawina's name.
Sawina was arrested on July 21 and found with a .380 caliber handgun on him, the same kind believed to be used in the shooting.
Sentencing is set for June 12. County Attorney Mike Freeman says the prosecution will ask for more than 20 years.