Three of the four men accused of being accomplices in the shooting of five protesters at a Minneapolis police precinct in November 2015 want the charges against them dropped, saying they weren’t responsible for the violence.
Attorneys for Joseph Backman, Nathan Gustavsson and Daniel Macey have each filed motions in their cases asking for the judge to throw out charges of second-degree riot and acting as an accomplice to the man accused of the shootings, Allen “Lance” Scarsella. They are scheduled to appear in court Jan. 31.
Scarsella, the only one of the four charged with felony first-degree assault for pulling the trigger, has pleaded not guilty and is set for trial at the end of January. His attorneys say they will argue that their client acted in self-defense. Scarsella remains jailed in lieu of $500,000 bail. The others have been released after posting bail.
The victims of the shooting — all black men ages 19 to 43 — were taken to hospitals with noncritical injuries.
Prosecutors allege that the four went to the protest with the hope of causing a disturbance. In a video made before the shooting, Scarsella and another man say they were going to the protest to “make the fire rise,” according to court documents.
In texts Gustavsson sent before the protest, he wrote. “I know how to make big news or get them to disperse,” and “I have an idea to really stir [expletive] up,” filings said.
Surveillance video taken during the protest shows that the four were wearing masks and shooting video across the street from an encampment where protesters rallied against the November 2015 shooting of Jamar Clark, an unarmed black man.
“The goal was to live-stream that peaceful protesters were not peaceful,” said Gustavsson’s attorney, Robert Jones.
Macey’s attorney, Ryan Garry, said the video shows the protesters confronted them and forced them to flee.
“The act of violence by Defendant Scarsella occurred only after the peace had already been disturbed by the BLM protesters,” Garry wrote in a court filing. “There was no intentional act or threat of unlawful force or violence by the defendants before the BLM protesters had already disturbed the peace.”
In court filings, the Hennepin County attorney’s office argues that the four went to the protest to threaten to use force and knew that one of them was carrying a gun. Before his trial next year, Scarsella will be back in court this month to ask for a change of venue, arguing that due to the media attention over the case he cannot get a fair trial.