MINNEAPOLIS - Prosecutors in Minneapolis have filed charges against four men arrested following the shooting of activists protesting the police-involved death of a young black man.
Police say five men between the ages of 19 and 43 were shot in the Nov. 23 attack, which happened just half a block away from the police precinct where dozens of protesters have been camped since the Nov. 15 fatal shooting of Jamar Clark. All of those wounded survived.
At a press conference Monday afternoon, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced five separate felony counts of second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon against the alleged triggerman, 23-year-old Allen Scarsella -- one for each victim shot.
"These four individuals violently impacted peoples' right to demonstrate," he said. "We will prosecute them to the furthest extent of the law."
Scarsella was also charged with one count of second-degree riot.
Investigators say they identified Scarsella and another man on surveillance video taken Nov. 19, and that the two were videotaping and antagonizing protesters while wearing camouflage and face masks. The other man, identified in the criminal complaint as J.S., told police they purposely went to the Fourth Precinct to make inappropriate comments and stir things up. The video they shot of the incident was then posted on social media sites.
On a website called 4Chan there were videos posted of Scarsella and the other man on their way to the Nov. 19 protest, allegedly referring to African Americans in derogatory terms and saying they were going to do some "reverse cultural enriching." J.S. told authorities he was aware that Scarsella and others he referred to as Nate, Daniel and Joe were going to the protest on the evening of Nov. 23 to livestream the crowd reaction to their presence. J.S. told police he knew that they would be armed, and said he decided not to go with them because he felt it would be too dangerous.
J.S. told investigators that Scarsella called him immediately afterwards and said he shot five people.
Investigators also learned that a police officer from Mankato who was personally acquainted with Scarsella received a call on Nov. 24 from the defendant confessing that he had shot five people. That officer says he told Scarsella to turn himself in, and turn his guns over to police.
One day later, authorities raided a home in Bloomington, arresting Scarsella and seizing guns, cell phones and other evidence. Scarsella's girfriend told police that he confessed to shooting the protesters, and said the defendant was "panicked" over the incident.
Prosecutors have also filed charges against three men who were with the alleged gunman the night of the shooting. Joseph Backman of Eagan, Nathan Gustavsson of Hermantown, and Daniel Macey of Pine City are all charged with second-degree riot. All four men are in their 20s; three are white, the fourth is Asian. Investigators recovered a string of text messages between the suspects planning to stir things up at the Nov. 23 protest of the fatal police shooting of Jamar Clark.
The complaint says all four men admitted in jail phone conversations that they were present at the shooting incident.
All four men are scheduled to appear in court on Tuesday. Scarsella is being held on $500,000 bail -- the others are held on $250,000 bail.
Police say Clark was fatally shot after struggling with two officers and reaching for one of their guns. But some people who said they saw the shooting allege the 24-year-old was handcuffed.