Julio Suarez said he was just trying to get a laugh out of fellow users of an internet message board when he flashed a handgun during a live-streamed slur-filled tirade with Allen Scarsella by his side as they headed toward the November 2015 Jamar Clark protests.
Four days later, Scarsella returned to the north Minneapolis encampment, where he shot and wounded five protesters. Immediately afterward, he showed up at Suarez's door, still gripping his gun.
"[Scarsella] said, 'I saw some guy reaching' and he beat him on the draw," Suarez testified Wednesday. "He said 'I dumped the mag,' " referring to the gun's magazine.
Scarsella, 24, went on trial Wednesday for felony riot and first-degree assault charges with Suarez as the prosecution's first witness. Suarez appeared in racially tinged videos antagonizing protesters, but wasn't present during the Nov. 23 shootings at the Fourth Police precinct in north Minneapolis.
Prosecutors say Suarez's videos and Scarsella's racist beliefs ultimately led to the shooting. His defense attorney argued that Scarsella is on trial for his actions, not his opinions, and that he fired in self-defense after the protesters attacked his group as they stood alongside a fence. Suarez was arrested, but never charged.
Suarez, 33, said he first met Scarsella in 2015 on a weapons message board on the website 4Chan. Suarez went by the online name "SaigaMarine," a reference to serving four years in the Marine Corps during the Iraq war. Scarsella went by "BlackPowderRanger," a nod to his antique guns. He and Scarsella went to a camp-out with other 4Chan members, where they shared their passion for firearms. They hung out a couple other times and stayed connected on the message board.
Fast-forward to Nov. 15, when an unarmed Jamar Clark was shot and killed by Minneapolis police, enraging activists and prompting protesters to camp out at the department's Fourth Precinct on the city's North Side.
Suarez saw an opportunity to achieve what he called "internet fame," he testified Wednesday. "I'm just trying to get some laughs out of the internet," he said.
He recruited Scarsella to come with him to the encampment Nov. 19. While driving there, Suarez filmed a video of the two that was played for the jury.
"We are locked and loaded," a masked Suarez says on the video, holding up a black pistol. As he flashes the gun, he says their mission is "a little reverse cultural enriching." "We're going to make the fire rise," he said.
"We're gonna see if we can have ourselves a little look-see," adds Scarsella, also masked.
Suarez told fellow 4Chan contributors to "stay white" as he signed off.
Many of those lines were just part of the jokes for the other 4Chan users, Suarez testified. "Make the fire rise" is a reference to the Batman movie "The Dark Knight Rises" and the villain Bain, which is a popular meme on the message board. To Suarez, "making the fire rise" was about watching the civil unrest at the police station, not causing it, he testified.
"Stay white," was another joke, Suarez said, "especially ironic because I'm a person of color."
"I thought I was being funny," he told defense attorney Peter Martin.
The lines continued as Suarez and Scarsella live-streamed themselves in another video played for the jury. It showed the two walking around the encampment dressed in camouflage coats and faces covered while occasionally making comments to each other.
At one point, Scarsella says he has "a Jew Phone 6."
"Android Master Race. Android Master Race," Suarez replies, "I really shouldn't be yelling about master race out here. At the end of the day, if I get in trouble, if I get in trouble for master race, there's only one final solution."
He testified that's another 4Chan joke pitting iPhones vs. Android phones. When Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Judith Hawley asked about the "final solution," Suarez replied he was "making a dark joke."
Those videos went viral and would later be shared among protesters. When Scarsella wanted to go back to the protest, Suarez said no.
"I realized I made a mistake," he said. "I didn't want to inflame, make things worse."
Scarsella did go back. In her opening statements Tuesday, Hawley said internet attention emboldened him.
"The internet is on fire about us," he allegedly told a friend. "I'm famous."
On Nov. 23, Scarsella went to the encampment with three other 4Chan users — Nathan Gustavsson, 22, of Hermantown; Daniel Macey, 27, of Pine City, and Joseph Backman, 28, of Eagan. Each stands charged with second-degree riot and aiding an offender.
Protesters approached the four as they were standing along a fence. Scarsella, armed with a semiautomatic handgun, began firing. Eight shots flew into the crowd. One man still has a bullet in his body; another had to have rods and screws permanently put into his leg.
When they arrived at Suarez's home, he said he immediately knew something was wrong. They all looked like they were in shock, Suarez said. Gustavsson was bleeding and missing a tooth. Scarsella, who Suarez said had no injuries, gripped his gun.
Saurez said he told Scarsella several times to turn himself in. They were there for about 20 minutes before they left. Scarsella asked Suarez to take his antique firearms, but he refused. Suarez said he figured he was going to get arrested after the videos spread.
"After it went viral, I knew I did something stupid," he said. "To be honest, I'm ashamed that an act of stupidity went viral."