As she had done dozens of times before, 17-year-old Jihan Abdullahi and her Somali friends met Nov. 19 at the McDonald's in Eden Prairie to grab a snack and socialize.
But before she could pay for her food, she said, a passing insult quickly escalated into a stranger waving a loaded handgun at them.
The stranger, Lloyd E. Johnson, 55, of Eden Prairie, was charged Monday with felony terroristic threats and carrying a pistol without a permit, a gross misdemeanor.
"Mr. Johnson did everything he could to provoke this incident, by insulting the young lady in front of him, to confronting a second person and finally pulling a gun after he already had moved away from the confrontation," said Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman.
"While he is innocent until proven guilty, this is outrageous behavior and it is only through sheer luck that no one was injured by his actions."
Abdullahi and several of her friends spoke publicly about the incident at a news conference Monday, though some of their families were uncomfortable about speaking due to safety concerns.
"I was terrified. I thought we were all going to get shot," she said.
Johnson was charged by summons and is scheduled to make his first court appearance on Jan. 10.
His attorney, Joshua London of Minneapolis, issued a statement Tuesday saying that Johnson had been "greatly affected by the incident on November 19th and the unfair public depiction of his actions and motives," and expressing confidence that the evidence will show he acted in self-defense.
"There is a good deal of evidence in this case beyond the video posted online and we look forward to having an opportunity to view all the evidence. ... We ask that [Johnson] not be judged until all of the evidence has been considered," London said.
Freeman said Johnson didn't point the gun at any of the teens, but was waving it in the air. Johnson said he felt threatened by them, according to the complaint.
Police also are investigating whether Johnson threatened anybody else at the store that night, said Freeman.
"But he started the confrontation and kept going back at them," said Freeman. "There is no evidence that any of the youth threatened him."
According to the criminal complaint:
Abdullahi and another teen told police that she was trying in vain to pay for their food with a digital app. Johnson, who was behind them, told them to hurry up and then said "you were probably trying to pay with EBT," the electronic benefit transfer card used to transfer federal food assistance benefits to stores that accept them.
One of the teens turned and answered him back. Johnson then approached another teen, said something to her and balled his hand into a fist, making her fear that he was going to hit her, according to the complaint. Abdullahi went into the dining area to get some of their friends, who began arguing with Johnson. Several bystanders jumped in.
Johnson broke away from the group, according to one of the teens, but returned moments later with his cellphone and appeared to be recording the argument, said Abdullahi. He told everyone to back up and pulled a handgun from his waistband before walking out, she said.
Investigators immediately obtained short clips of the incident from cellphones. But it took a week to get the store video, which shows Johnson saying something to the teens and then getting in the face of one of them.
It shows another man at the counter approaching Johnson, who slaps away his hand and appears to take an aggressive posture. Johnson then backs away, taking out his cellphone and re-engaging the group. The store video is key evidence, said Freeman.
When police interviewed him, Johnson admitted making the comment about EBT, that it was insulting and that "I shouldn't have said it." He also admitted he did not have a permit to carry a firearm, the complaint said.
Police recovered a Steyr M40 semiautomatic handgun from Johnson, its magazine loaded with 10 rounds of ammunition.
Jaylani Hussein, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations Minnesota (CAIR-MN), the state's leading Muslim civil rights and legal advocacy organization, said McDonald's managers on duty that night didn't do anything to de-escalate the situation. Instead, they kicked out the teens even though Johnson was still nearby, he said. One of the teens told him that a manager said Johnson probably had good reason to pull his gun.
"The managers were cursing at them to get out," he said. "They were racially and religiously profiling. In this era of mass shootings, this is shocking."
Paul Ostergaard, the owner of the store, said the shift manager working that night was suspended pending an investigation. She asked the teens to leave because Johnson had left right away and was no longer around, he said.
Ostergaard said his lead staff person reached out to several of the teens, apologized and asked them to pass the word to others that he would be happy to meet with them. No one has taken him up on the offer. Ostergaard also said his staff would go through security training.
Hussein said CAIR-MN wants to hear what store employees said during their 911 call to police, and encouraged McDonald's to review its training policies.