Prosecutors have charged four men in connection with a shooting at a Black Lives Matter protest in Minneapolis last week.
Allen Lawrence Scarsella, the 22-year-old who allegedly fired the shots, was charged with one count of rioting while armed with a dangerous weapon and five counts of assault with a dangerous weapon. Twenty-seven-year-old Joseph Martin Backman, 21-year-old Nathan Wayne Gustavsson and 26-year-old Daniel Thomas Macey each face a single riot charge.
Scarsella, Backman and Gustavsson, who are all white, and Macey, who is Asian, were arrested last Wednesday. Minneapolis police are working with the FBI on the case and said they are not seeking any more suspects.
The shooting occurred at a protest in which Black Lives Matter’s Minneapolis chapter was demanding justice in the death of Jamar Clark, a 24-year-old black man shot by police this month.
One of the arrested men called a high-school friend, who is a police officer, and confessed the crime, according to a search warrant obtained by CBS Minnesota. The man claims he and his friends went to the protest with the intention of live-streaming it, and said the altercation began when protesters tried to get them to leave.
But Oleuchi Omeoga, a protester who witnessed the shooting, told the Associated Press that the three men were masked and "weren’t supposed to be" at the demonstration. Once the men left, several protesters followed them to a street corner. That's when the shots were fired, according to Omeoga. The shots hit five black men, none of whom sustained life-threatening injuries.
Someone who knows Scarsella confirmed to investigators that he and Scarsella had been at the protest site a few days earlier to record. The acquaintance said the two made “inappropriate comments to [the] protesters, which sparked anger between BLM and his group and led to angry Internet postings…” These Internet forums, where commenters talked about dressing in plain clothes but carrying a firearm, were reviewed by investigators, according to the charging papers obtained by the Minneapolis Star Tribune:
The website participants referred to blacks in derogatory terms and said they intended to do some “reverse cultural enriching.” The acquaintance held up a handgun before the camera in one posting and ended the video with the words “stay white.”
About 1 o’clock the next morning, a police officer [identified in other court documents as being from the Mankato Police Department] said Scarsella told him he shot five people near the police station. The officer told Scarsella to turn himself in.
The officer knew Scarsella as someone who carried firearms, “had very intense opinions,” considered himself “a sovereign citizen and pro-Constitution,” and had “negative experiences with and opinions about African Americans.”
Black Lives Matter Minneapolis quickly deemed last Monday's shooting "a planned hate crime and an act of terrorism against activists."
Though the suspects were not charged with committing a hate crime or with domestic terrorism, it's worth pointing out that at least 48 people have been killed in the U.S. by radical anti-government groups or white supremacists since the Sept. 11 attacks -- almost twice the number killed by self-identified jihadists -- according to a study released in June by the New America Foundation.
Local law enforcement agencies also report being more concerned with the activities of such right-wing extremist groups than with Islamic extremists in their jurisdictions. Domestic terror threats prompted the Department of Justice to create a new unit last month to address the threat.