MINNEAPOLIS – A man who allegedly shot at demonstrators protesting the killing of a black man by Minneapolis police was charged Monday with assault with a dangerous weapon and riot.
Allen Lawrence Scarsella, 23, of Lakeville, was charged in the Nov. 23 attack that left five protesters injured; they did not have life-threatening wounds. According to a criminal complaint, Scarsella is the one who shot at protesters, who have been camped at a local police precinct since Jamar Clark was fatally shot by police on Nov. 15.
Also Monday, Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges asked demonstrators to end their encampment outside the police precinct, saying the group's ongoing campfires are making the air harmful to children and older people in the neighborhood with respiratory problems. She also said the protesters' barricades are blocking access for emergency vehicles and snowplows.
Scarsella is being held on $500,000 bail, while the others are being held on $250,000 bail, according to the Hennepin County Jail roster. All will make their first court appearances at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday. Scarsella and two others are white, and the fourth person is Asian, police said. A search warrant says Scarsella called an old high school friend who is a Mankato police officer and confessed to the shootings. The documents say he told the officer he and some friends went to the protest to livestream it. The altercation broke out when protesters tried to escort the men away from the demonstration.
Protesters have maintained a presence outside the 4th Precinct since Clark, 24, was shot Nov. 15 in a confrontation with police and died a day later. They've vowed to stay until authorities meet their demands, which include the release of video of Clark's shooting. The incident is being investigated, and one of the officers involved was recently named in a lawsuit for allegedly using excessive force during an arrest four years ago.
U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison and other local community leaders joined Hodges on Monday in asking for protesters to end their demonstration.
But some protesters plan to stand their ground. Wesley Martin, 18, who was injured in the Nov. 23 shooting, was among roughly two dozen people at the encampment Monday morning. He said city officials can do what they want, but protesters aren't leaving.
"They can have the street. We can take the sidewalk," he said. "To be honest, we're not going nowhere."
Clark, 24, died in a confrontation with police who were responding to an assault call in which Clark was a suspect. Police say they arrived to find him interfering with paramedics trying to treat an injured woman. They say a scuffle followed and Clark was shot once in the head.
Some community members have alleged Clark was handcuffed when he was shot, which police have disputed. An attorney for one of the officers says Clark was not handcuffed, was trying to get an officer's weapon and "had manual control" of the gun when he was shot. No other gun was found at the scene.
The state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which is investigating the case, says handcuffs were found at the scene but it isn't clear whether Clark was cuffed at the time of the shooting. A federal civil rights investigation is also underway.
One of the officers involved was sued just 10 days before Clark's death, for allegedly using excessive force during an arrest four years ago.
The lawsuit alleges that Dustin Schwarze, who was working as a Richfield police officer, used a stun gun on a passenger in a vehicle that was pulled over by Richfield officers in December 2011. It also accuses Schwarze of threatening to beat that passenger and another if they exited the vehicle.
Two other officers and the city of Richfield also are named in the lawsuit, which gained media attention when it was moved from Hennepin County District Court to U.S. District Court last week. Daniel Kurtz, an attorney for Schwarze, said the plaintiff in the 2011 traffic stop had kicked an officer in the face, and the officers used reasonable force to arrest him.