In the glow of a vehicle’s interior light, the YouTube video shows two masked men as they cruise down Lyndale Avenue in Minneapolis one night last week. The driver, who identifies himself as “SaigaMarine,” doesn’t hesitate to make his agenda clear.
“We are locked and loaded,” he says, holding up a black 1911-style pistol. As he flashes the gun, he explains amid racial slurs that the men are headed to the Black Lives Matter protest outside Minneapolis’ Fourth Precinct police headquarters. Their mission, he says, is “a little reverse cultural enriching.”
“We’re gonna see if we can have ourselves a little look-see,” adds his passenger, who identifies himself as “Black Powder Ranger.”
SaigaMarine tells viewers to stay tuned. “Stay white,” he says as he signs off.
On Tuesday, days after that video went public, three men were in custody in connection with Monday night’s shooting of five protesters a block from the Fourth Precinct headquarters in an act that drew condemnation coast to coast.
Police arrested Allen Lawrence “Lance” Scarsella III, 23, of Lakeville, and a 32-year-old man from Minneapolis, who was later released from custody after police determined he wasn’t at the shooting scene.
Later Tuesday, two more men — Nathan Gustavsson, 21, of Hermantown and Daniel Macey, 26, of Pine City — turned themselves in to police and were booked on probable cause assault in connection with the case.
Monday’s shootings caused an uproar among protesters encamped at the Fourth Precinct headquarters since 24-year-old Jamar Clark was fatally shot during a struggle with two Minneapolis police officers early Nov. 15. Many said they believe police did not move quickly enough to assist the wounded or apprehend the shooters, some of whom were believed to have visited the protest site more than once. Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau, however, lauded police for working through the night to make the arrests.
Still, the shootings galvanized protesters, who said Tuesday that the shots rang out after they attempted to drive the men, who they described as “white supremacists,” from the area.
Witnesses to the shootings said they confronted the men before they fired and forced them from the protest area. According to a video interview with two men immediately afterward, the group demanded that the assailants remove their masks. When they refused, a scuffle ensued. As the crowd began to push the men out, shots were fired.
While police didn’t publicly connect Scarsella to the YouTube video from last week, social media offered a glimpse into his political leanings.
A Facebook page for him displays a “Bonnie Blue Flag,” an unofficial banner of the Confederacy.
“This isn’t the Somalian flag, (by the way),” he wrote beneath the post.
Meanwhile, the Facebook page of the Minneapolis man released from custody shows a profile photo that features him armed and donning full military gear. He describes his occupation simply as “Saving the Constitution.”
The man, who bears a striking resemblance to the masked “SaigaMarine,” also displays an affinity for firearms. On a cache of a now-deleted Instagram page, he describes himself as a former Marine infantryman and Iraq war veteran, as well as a firearms model and supporter of the Second Amendment.
He also appeared to be well-known on /k/, a popular weapons message board on the website 4chan where racist comments are sometimes posted. There, he was known as SaigaMarine, among other monikers, and news of his arrest reverberated among the anonymous users.
“What an idiot,” one wrote. “Play stupid games, win stupid prizes. Never should’ve trolled that protest so hard.”
Several days before Monday’s shootings, the masked men from the YouTube video made an appearance at the Fourth Precinct protests under the guise of being in support of Clark, according to video captured by alternative media website Unicorn Riot.
“Things are getting heated,” SaigaMarine told a Unicorn Riot reporter. “They always expect one of us to do something. They expect one of us to be in the wreckage of all this. It’s boiling. It’s going to be happening soon.”
On his camouflage coat was a patch bearing the logo for /k/.
The second man in the YouTube video turned to the camera, while another masked man snickered.
“All these folks here should get the justice and peace that they deserve. And what we really need to do here is reach out to our communities, especially our melanin-enriched communities,” the second man said.
Protesters soon grew suspicious and confronted the men, who said they were simply there to watch and film. The protesters, doubtful, let them move on.
On Tuesday, as the shooting victims recovered, a soundless video appeared online. The six-minute footage, believed to have been filmed by the shooting suspects, shows them approaching the encampment only to be confronted by a group of men and women, some of whom would later be shot.
After what appears to be a heated exchange, the camera shakes and cuts to black.
Staff writer David Chanen contributed to this report.