Three men are in police custody after five Black Lives Matter activists were shot Monday night near protests over the shooting death of Jamar Clark, Minneapolis police say.
Allen “Lance” Scarsella, 23, is currently being held without bail at Hennepin County jail. Three other suspects, Nathan Gustavsson, 21, Daniel Macey, 26, and Joseph Backman, 27, are also in custody, the Star-Tribune reports.
A fifth person, a 32-year-old Hispanic man who goes by the name “Saiga Marine” online, was brought in for questioning Tuesday, but released after police determined he was not at the protests Monday night.
On November 30, Scarsella was charged with five counts of second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon, the Star-Tribune reports. He and the three other men were charged with second-degree riot while armed.
Protesters said they were trying to get a group of armed white men, some wearing masks, to leave the area of the demonstration Monday night. The men then opened fire on the protesters. The victims are expected to survive.
“A group of white supremacists showed up at the protest, as they have done most nights,” Miski Noor, a spokesperson for Black Lives Matter, told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Noor told the newspaper the protesters tried to get the group away from the area, and the men then “opened fire” on about six demonstrators. The shooting occurred in an alley about a block from the 4th Police Precinct, Noor said.
The shooting occurred at about 10:40 p.m. near the 4th Police Precinct in North Minneapolis, where activists have gathered for more than a week to protest over the death of 24-year-old Jamar Clark. The unarmed black man was shot on November 15 by a white police officer, and witnesses have claimed that he was handcuffed when he was shot. Police have denied those claims, but the shooting remains under investigation.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Scarsella Was Arrested on Tuesday in Bloomington
Lance Scarsella was taken into custody Tuesday in Bloomington, Minnesota, police said. A video shot by a neighbor shows a SWAT team calling for Scarsella to come out of a house with his hands up:
He was booked into the Hennepin County Jail on suspicion of assault at 6 p.m., and held without bail.
According to his Facebook page, Scarsella is originally from Lakeville, Minnesota, and now lives in Saint Paul. He was a student at the University of St. Thomas until last year.
Scarsella’s Facebook cover photo is the Bonnie Blue Flag, a flag associated with the Confederacy.
Scarsella was a high school wrestler at Lakeville North High School. He became an Eagle Scout in 2009.
Macey and Gustavsson turned themselves in later Tuesday.
2. Scarsella Admitted He Was the Shooter in a Phone Call to a Police Officer
According to an application for a search warrant filed by investigators, Scarsella called a high school classmate, Officer Brett Levin, who is now a police officer in Mankato, Minnesota. The call was made at about 1 a.m., more than two hours after the shooting. In the call, Scarsella admitted to shooting five people at the Black Lives Matter protest, police said.
You can read the search warrant application below:
Levin told Minneapolis Police that Scarsella seem frightened on the call, and said he had gone to the protest to live-stream video of it.
A video taken at the scene shows the moments before the shooting, as the trio of men are approached by activists. There is no audio in the video, which was provided to News Talk 1130, and appears to have been shot by one of the shooting suspects. Watch it below:
Investigators said in the search warrant they were looking for clothing and masks worn by the suspects, photos, phones, photographic evidence, computers, recording devices and weapons.
According to a probable cause statement filed by prosecutors, Scarsella and his friends talked in text messages about “how to make big news” and “stir shit up,” at the protests.
You can read the statement below:
3. Authorities Are Deciding Whether to Investigate the Shooting as a Hate Crime
Sources told the Star-Tribune that authorities are still deciding whether to investigate the shooting as a hate crime.
Investigators said in search warrant applications that they were searching for “evidence of hate crimes or white supremacy paraphernalia.”
Also, federal investigators could get involved.
“The Federal Bureau of Investigation is aware of the incident and is coordinating with the Minneapolis Police Department to assess the facts and determine if further federal action” is warranted, FBI spokesman Kyle Loven told the newspaper.
4. Scarsella Has Been Identified by Police as 1 of 2 Men in a Video Posted Before the Shooting
Police confirmed in a probable cause statement that Scarsella was identified as one of two men seen in a video posted online days before the shooting.
According to City Pages, two men wearing camouflage with masks over their faces came to the protests last Friday night. Protesters said they felt threatened by the armed men.
“I don’t know if this is what [protesters] were planning, just standing here,” one of the men said, according to City Pages. “It’s almost as if they expect one of us to do something. They expect one of us to be in the wreckage of all this. It’s boiling. It’s going to be happening soon.
A video posted by the two men (which can be watched above) was found online by Black Lives Matter Minneapolis.
Police said last week they were aware of the threat to protesters.
“The Minneapolis Police Department has received information that a group may attempt to cause a disturbance this evening in front of the Police Department’s 4th Precinct,” police spokesman Scott Seroka said in a statement. “We are asking gathered demonstrators to be vigilant and report any actions that may seem out of the ordinary. If anyone notices something suspicious, please contact a nearby officer or call 9-1-1. A physical description, clothing description, and/or vehicle description is helpful. Also, please report any ‘out of the ordinary’ actions you have observed.”
5. Activists Have Been Critical of the Way Police Responded to the Shooting Monday Night
The demonstrators have criticized the police response to Monday night’s shooting on Twitter, saying officers staged outside of the scene for several minutes before coming to the aid of the gunshot victims. They also say officers maced protesters who were filming them.
Police radio audio recorded from a scanner can be heard here.
Police said in a statement, “Dozens of officers responded almost immediately attending to victims and secured the scene. Additional resources were called in and are actively investigating the shootings, interviewing a multitude of witnesses. The Police Department is working to identify suspects. The police are asking that anyone with information to please come forward. … The Minneapolis Police Department has additional uniformed officers in the area to ensure the safety of all persons.”
After the shooting, the brother of Jamar Clark, Eddie Sutton, issued a statement to the media:
Thank you to the community for the incredible support you have shown for our family in this difficult time. We appreciate Black Lives Matter for holding it down and keeping the protests peaceful. But in light of tonight’s shootings, the family feels out of imminent concern for the safety of the occupiers, we must get the occupation of the 4th precinct ended and onto the next step.
Activists with the Black Lives Matter movement have said on Twitter that they will not let the shooting scare them away from protesting the against the police.