Teven King and Wesley Martin stood around a firepit outside the Minneapolis Fourth Precinct police headquarters on the night of Nov. 23, 2015, when Martin noticed four men standing near a fence.
The mood in the encampment was tense since four days earlier, when a video went viral of two men dressed in camouflage jackets and masks headed to the protest, calling the protesters a derogatory name. They said they were “locked and loaded” and were going to the encampment “for a little reverse cultural enriching.”
Though neither King nor Martin had seen the video, they didn’t like that the four wore masks. Martin walked up first to confront them. King followed, demanding the four show their faces.
“I told them if you’re here to get justice, what do you need a mask for?” King told a jury Friday.
The crowd grew. One of the four men was punched. Moments later, five people were shot — King and Martin among them. King’s injury was the most severe, with a bullet still lodged in his abdomen.
“I felt like I was going to die,” he said.
King and Martin took the stand Friday as the first week of Allen “Lance” Scarsella’s felony assault and riot trial ended with testimony about the moments leading up to the moment Scarsella, who was among the four men by the fence, fired on the group. Prosecutors say Scarsella’s racist beliefs eventually led to the shooting that night, while his defense attorney argues that he feared for his life and fired in self-defense.
The three others with Scarsella that night, Nathan Gustavsson, 22, of Hermantown; Daniel Macey, 27, of Pine City, and Joseph Backman, 28, of Eagan, stand charged with second-degree riot and aiding an offender.
King, 20, and Martin, 19, went almost daily to the encampment set up in protest of the death of Jamar Clark, who had been shot and killed during a fight with two Minneapolis police officers. Both were drinking cognac that night, while Martin said he had also smoked marijuana. They said they both were feeling the effects of it when they approached the protesters.
Surveillance video shown to the jury Thursday shows how in a span of only a couple minutes a large group of about 20 to 30 formed and surrounded the four men.
“Someone said if you don’t take off your face masks, you’re going to have to kick rocks,” Martin said.
The four started to leave and the protesters followed. They walked north on Morgan Street. Martin said he and others stopped when his cousin yelled to stop following them. He did, but Martin said he heard one of the four use the “N” word.
“Me and a group of people started running toward them,” Martin said.
They chased them up the block, out of view from the surveillance camera, then across a street.
At some point, King said he saw an older, gray-haired man punch one of the four who fell to the ground. That turned out to be Gustavsson, who lost a tooth.
“One of [the four] said, ‘Get back,’ ” Martin said.
Martin said he heard gunshots, then saw the fire of a muzzle, turned around and ran. He took a shot in the left leg.
King said he saw Scarsella take out a gun but couldn’t get away when the shots were fired. He said he felt the bullet hit his abdomen. In fear for his life, he ran until he lost feeling in his legs. He fell by a tree when others went to help him.
“It felt like someone sticked a hand in my stomach and started twisting my intestines,” King said. “That’s how bad it burned.”
Both were taken to Hennepin County Medical Center. King needed emergency surgery, then stayed in the hospital for 10 days before he was discharged with the bullet still inside him. A doctor testified that it would have been riskier to take it out. He spent the next two months in a wheelchair before he could walk again.
Since then, King has lost about 45 pounds. In a dramatic moment, prosecutors showed the jury how the shooting will be with King for the rest of his life, when they put up a photograph showing a thick, protruding scar traveling several inches up his abdomen.
Testimony resumes Monday.