A judge on Wednesday sentenced Allen Scarsella to more than 15 years in prison for the racially motivated shooting of five black men at a north Minneapolis demonstration following the death of Jamar Clark.
It was a punishment considered far too lenient by Clark's family, who confronted Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman after the sentencing and repeatedly demanded to know why more severe charges weren't filed against Scarsella.
"If that was me, I'd be looking at 25, 30 [years] to life," said Cameron Clark, whom Scarsella, 25, shot twice during the protest on Nov. 23, 2015.
Before leaving the confrontation, Freeman called the sentence "a good result."
Freeman has repeatedly said the office leveled the most serious felony assault charges they could under state law. They asked Judge Hilary Caligiuri to give Scarsella 20 years but expected a range somewhere within 12 to 17 years. After credit for the 17 months he has been jailed since the shooting, Scarsella will likely be eligible for supervised release in 8½ years.
Scarsella's attorneys asked for probation. While addressing Caligiuri, Scarsella said he recognized "the severity of the events" that night.
"The fact that others were injured because of something I did weighs heavily on my heart every day," he said, adding that if sentenced to probation, he would rebuild his life and become an asset to society.
Caligiuri was unmoved, saying that probation "would so seriously understate the severity of what you did that day in north Minneapolis.
"You brought a loaded gun into a gathering of people of whom you expressed such contempt," Caligiuri told Scarsella. "You were not there as a person of good will. And it played out as anyone would have predicted. The only saving grace is that your shots did not kill their targets."
'Racist, repugnant ideas'
In February a jury found Scarsella guilty of first-degree assault and riot for shooting the Black Lives Matter encampment participants outside the Minneapolis Police Department's Fourth Precinct. The protesters had held a vigil there since the death of Clark, who had been shot and killed in a struggle with police. Throughout the trial, Scarsella argued that he feared for his life and shot in self-defense.
At the sentencing Wednesday, prosecutors sought the harshest penalty as Assistant County Attorney Chris Freeman (who is not related to Mike Freeman) detailed the injuries to the five men. Teven King was shot in the stomach, lost three liters of blood and was minutes away from death. The bullet remains in his body after a doctor deemed it too dangerous to remove. Walter Hoskins was shot in the back and femur. Wesley Martin was shot in the leg. Cameron Clark was shot in the foot and leg, and said he cannot work and support his family because of the injuries. Draper Larkins was hit in the arm.
"Five unarmed black men [were] gunned down in what could only be called a racially motivated mass shooting," Chris Freeman said.
During the trial, prosecutors revealed several racist text messages Scarsella sent to his friends in the year before the shooting. In one, he suggested a friend go with him to target practice "for when we have to shoot black guys."
On the day of the shooting, he texted his girlfriend that "smelly brown people" should "just gas themselves, honestly."
From the bench, Caligiuri said she didn't realize that people "still held such racist, repugnant ideas as the ones expressed in your text messages."
'Know it forever'
After the hearing adjourned, James and Cameron Clark blasted both the charges and the sentence brought against Scarsella, calling Scarsella's remorse "fake" while accusing Caligiuri of leniency.
"A black man cannot get justice," James Clark said.
Mike Freeman then addressed the media, saying his office "Charged the maximum we could," a comment that angered Jamar Clark's family.
"He should have been charged with premeditated murder," Cameron Clark told him. "I could have been killed."
Freeman tried to continue speaking, but after a few minutes walked away as both men continued to press him.
"I'm not done," Cameron Clark yelled at Freeman. "You're gonna know it forever."
The incident was a repeat of another news conference in March 2016, when Freeman announced he would not bring charges in Jamar Clark's death. After being repeatedly pressed by Black Lives Matter and NAACP members, Freeman cut off media questions.
Along with Scarsella, Nathan Gustavsson, 22, of Hermantown, stands charged with second-degree riot and aiding an offender. Joseph Backman, 28, of Eagan, is charged with aiding an offender. Their cases remain open.
Another man accused of involvement in the shooting, Daniel Macey, had all charges against him dropped in February.