Allen Scarsella was sentenced to 15 years and two months in prison on Wednesday for shooting and injuring five Black men near a Black Lives Matter (BLM) demonstration in Minneapolis on Nov. 23, 2015.
The shootings followed nine days of peaceful demonstrations outside the city’s Fourth Precinct in response to the police-related death of 24-year-old Jamar Clark on Nov. 15, 2015. Witnesses say Clark was unarmed and handcuffed when he was shot. Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced on March 30, 2016, that no charges would be filed against the officers.
Scarsella, a 25-year-old white male from Bloomington, Minn., had shown up at the BLM demonstrations more than once with friends. On the night of the shooting, attendees confronted the group of white men about their facemasks, but the group refused to remove the masks. Scarsella argued throughout the trial that he feared for his life and shot in self-defense as demonstrators chased them away.
“I recognize the severity of the events of November 23, 2015,” Scarsella said as he stood before Hennepin County District Judge Hilary Caligiuri, according to the Associated Press.
“I’ll live with the consequences the rest of my life,” he said.
Scarsella was found guilty on a total of 12 counts, including assault with a dangerous weapon and riot. The three other Minnesota men with him at the time of the shootings have pleaded not guilty to rioting and aiding an offender.
Judge Caligiuri said she “didn’t claim to understand why Scarsella did what he did or where he got his ‘repugnant, racist ideas,’” according to the Associated Press. “She said the only saving grace in the events of that night was that none of the victims died.”
In 2015, a media contact for Black Lives Matter (BLM) Minneapolis, Miski Noor, told the Star Tribune that “a group of white supremacists showed up at the protest, as they have done most nights.” Noor said when they were asked to move on they “opened fire on about six protesters,” hitting five of them.
BLM spokesperson said shooters are white supremacists who have made prior threats.
About a week prior to the shooting, BLM Minneapolis posted a video on its Facebook page made by two white men, wearing facemasks, who threatened protesters. Scarsella was identified as one of the men in the video.
The post accompanying the video states:
Last night 2 white supremacists, one carrying a pistol, showed up to our peaceful protest at the 4th precinct. After community members on live stream started questioning them they left without incident, then we later found a video of them en route to the protest brandishing a pistol and making comments including “stay white” and justifying the killing of Jamar Clark.
In the video, the men wave a handgun and make racially charged statements about the protesters.
In a Minneapolis courtroom in January, Sgt. Kelly O’Rourke read several text messages Scarsella sent from his cellphone. Some of the messages he sent to unnamed recipients included the use of the “n-word” and talk of shooting “chimps” and “brown people,” according to Minneapolis Public Radio.
On the day of the shooting, in a text message exchange between Scarsella and Ashley Murray, a woman he was dating, he expressed his disdain for Black people.
“Sam’s Club is packed with smelly brown people, slowing things down…” Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Judith Hawley read from the text Murray said was from Scarsella.
“OMG I just died laughing at that,” read Hawley from Murray’s reply. “Well maybe they should stock up on shampoo and body wash.”
Scarsella’s reply: “They should just gas themselves. Honestly.”
Police investigator Sgt. Sara Metcalf testified that the day after the shooting, during an hour-long taped interview, Murray said of Scarsella: “He’s a nice guy but he hates Black people.”
At Wednesday’s sentencing the only victim who testified was Jamar Clark’s cousin, Cameron Clark, who was shot in the foot and leg.
He said if the situation were reversed, as a Black man, he would have gotten a harsher sentence.
“If that had been me I would have been looking at 25 to 30 [years] for shooting five white people,” Clark said.