The Black Lives Matter protests that continued several months after Michael Brown was shot and killed by a Ferguson, Mo., police officer prompted Allen “Lance” Scarsella to fire off an angry text message to a friend.
“Someone needs to go down there and make all those dumb [racial slur] afraid to leave the safety of their own houses,” he wrote in March 2015.
That’s among the newly released text messages, photos and videos filed as exhibits in Scarsella’s trial, which resulted in a jury convicting him earlier in February on 12 counts of felony first-degree assault and riot for shooting five Black Lives Matter protesters on Nov., 23, 2015. He is scheduled to be sentenced on March 10. Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said he will seek the maximum sentence of nearly 20 years in prison, although he noted that 12 to 17 years would be more likely.
Scarsella and three friends said they went to north Minneapolis’ Fourth Police Precinct that night to livestream an ongoing protest of the death of Jamar Clark, who had been shot and killed a few days earlier during a scuffle with police.
Texts and photos taken from Scarsella’s cellphone and computer, many of which were not presented at trial, show a deeply racist man who talked about being part of a “reserve militia.” He took selfies with his gun in his waistband, wrote frequently about shooting blacks and was passionate about the gun he would eventually use to shoot protesters.
In a follow-up text to the one about Brown and Ferguson, Scarsella referred to blacks as “uneducated monkeys” and that he wanted to make black parents huddle with their children in their homes, “hoping and praying that I pass them by without killing every firstborn black in the neighborhood.”
In another text message not presented at the trial he wrote, “I’ve come to the conclusion that black people should be mandated to have a permit in order to reproduce.” On his computer, Scarsella had photos of swastikas, Hitler, and an image that read “Hitler did nothing wrong.”
Though the jury didn’t see that during trial, they did have access to those exhibits while they deliberated for about eight hours before finding Scarsella guilty.
During the trial, prosecutors showed the jury several other racist texts Scarsella sent to friends, including one where he asked someone “to come practice for when we have to shoot black guys.”
When he testified, Scarsella claimed he shot in self-defense after the protesters ran at him. He responded “yes” when the prosecutor asked if the texts were “just words” that didn’t mean anything to him. Others were just jokes not meant to be taken seriously, he said.
He also said he was “ignorant” about the issues people of color face.
“I think that led me to the texts I sent,” he said.
When Scarsella’s friend and co-defendant Nathan Gustavsson testified, it allowed the prosecution to introduce an image taken off his phone. That showed a rifle pointed at a crude, racist drawing of a black man.
Gustavsson, 22, of Hermantown; Daniel Macey, 27, of Pine City, and Joseph Backman, 28, of Eagan, are charged with second-degree riot and aiding an offender.
The videos of the shooting before and after it happened were also released on Thursday, including three that had never been shown publicly before the trial. They include surveillance video of the four men arriving at the Black Lives Matter encampment, where after a few minutes they are quickly surrounded by protesters.
Many of the protesters wanted them to take their masks off or leave. Another video, taken from a cellphone, shows the four fleeing from the protest and ends just moments before the shots were fired. The next shows the chaos after Scarsella fired his gun, including the scramble to get help for the victims and the anguished screams of Tevin King after he was shot in the stomach. King was the most seriously injured of the five shooting victims, with the bullet remaining in his body to this day.
View the videos and other evidence at startribune.com