The man accused of shooting five protesters at a Minneapolis police precinct last year said he fired in self-defense, according to court documents filed Wednesday.
Allen "Lance" Scarsella, 24, of Lakeville, is the only one among four co-defendants charged with first-degree assault for pulling the trigger Nov. 23 on an encampment assembled to protest the death of 24-year-old Jamar Clark, a black man who was shot by police during a struggle with white officers. The others were charged with second-degree riot while armed.
Scarsella is being held in isolation at Hennepin County jail because of safety concerns, documents said. The confinement "has and will have a continue to have a significant impact on his mental health and ability to participate in his defense," according to a motion by his attorney Peter Martin.
Scarsella's attorneys plan to argue that the shooting was in self-defense or the defense of others. Scarsella has pleaded not guilty.
In the motion, Martin argued that Scarsella's $500,000 bail should be significantly reduced and that release conditions should be relaxed because he isn't a threat to the victims or public safety.
His attorney, Peter Martin, contends that bail has previously been set at $100,000 at the request of the Hennepin County attorney's office. He added that there was no evidence that Scarsella is a danger to the public or would fail to appear at future court dates.
Scarsella should receive a reduced bail because he has no criminal history, strong Minnesota connections, and a place to live both family and community support, the motion said. Home monitoring could also be an option, Martin wrote.
A bail hearing is scheduled for June 22 and a hearing on the motions is planned for next month.
According to witnesses, about a dozen protesters attempted to move Scarsella and three others — Daniel Macey, Joseph Backman and Nathan Gustavvson — from the encampment outside the Police Department's Fourth Precinct station in November when Scarsella fired, hitting five people. The victims — all black men ages 19 to 43 — were taken to hospitals with noncritical injuries. Macey, Backman and Gustavsson were charged with second-degree riot while armed and have been released on bail.
A previous motion filed on behalf of one of the co-defendants contended that people in the crowd punched several of them before shots were fired. According to police interviews with several protesters, they were upset that the group was filming the protest and that "they were up to something," the motion said.
Other interviews with protesters said they "wanted to beat" the men because they were white and it was rumored they were either KKK or police, the motion said.
Two hours after the shooting, Scarsella confessed to a Mankato police officer who was an old high school friend, according to court documents. Hours later, he was the first of the men to be arrested.
Martin's motion cited evidence that the crowd initiated physical contact and directed violent verbal epithets toward Scarsella and the co-defendants. Several witnesses described their attempts to run away, but the angry crowd followed and attacked one of them, he said. Witnesses said the crowd consisted of "anywhere from a dozen to thirty members," he said.
The incident, Martin wrote, happened in a public place during a demonstration that all citizens, including onlookers, had a right to attend and express their opinion.
Clark's death triggered several high profile demonstrations and gained national attention. Both officers involved in his death were cleared of any wrong doing in separate state and federal investigations.
Several hearings for Scarsella and the co-defendants have been postponed in order to get through the evidence, which includes police reports and electronic items, Martin said.