A jury found Allen Scarsella guilty on 11 counts of felony assault and one riot offense for pulling the trigger and wounding five Black Lives Matter protesters in Minneapolis 14 months ago.
The trial of the 25-year-old shooter featured numerous revelations about the racist language he and his companions that night had used in the lead-up to their confrontation at a demonstration in the name of Jamar Clark. These included Scarsella's messages saying he was happy to get the same gun as George Zimmerman, the man who shot and killed Trayvon Martin, and his stating that he would take target practice "for when we have to shoot black guys."
Scarsella's trail of racist breadcrumbs eventually led to Brett Levin, an officer with the Burnsville Police Department who had advised the young shooter to turn himself in to police in late 2015. On the stand, Levin acknowledged that he'd received and sent racist messages with Scarsella for years, dating back to their time as high school friends.
Levin called such exchanges "locker room talk," a revealing and loaded phrase in the Donald Trump era. Soon after his testimony, Levin resigned from the force.
Scarsella's defense team had argued that he was only trying to save the group of young white men who'd accompanied him that night. Nathan Gustavsson, who has also been charged for his role in the confrontation that night, testified that a small group of Black Lives Matter protesters had followed the four white men off the Fourth Police Precinct premises and back to their cars.
Both Scarsella and Gustavsson claimed they were assaulted by those protesters, and Gustavsson said one had pulled a knife on him, inspiring Scarsella to shoot back in defense. (Under cross-examination Gustavsson would admit that while he'd seen something metal, he could not be certain it was a knife.)
Scarsella's bullets hit five men and left one with a critical stomach wound, though each survived.
Prosecutors wove together text messages and social media posts from Scarsella and his associates to prove that their motives for even attending the rally in north Minneapolis were racist. Most notably, Gustavsson had texted the future shooter, saying he had "an idea to really stir shit up." That message went out hours before the shooting.
Scarsella was almost literally found guilty by a jury of his peers: Of 14 panel members approved for the trial, 11 were men and none were black. The jury deliberated for most of Wednesday before coming out with its verdict.
Prior to the trial, Minneapolis NAACP President Jason Sole told City Pages he wasn't optimistic about a jury conviction of Scarsella, saying, "We've been through this stuff before. We're actually shocked when we get justice. We expect it not to go right."
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman heralded their decisions as just, saying the racist attitudes Scarsella and his friends had displayed are "just not acceptable and the actions he took as a result of those racist beliefs were heinous."
Noting that Scarsella had never been out on bail since his arrest 14 months ago, Freeman said his office would ask for "the stiffest possible sentence to keep him confined even longer."
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