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Racist shooter of Black protesters testifies in Minneapolis court

By Jess Sundin |
January 31, 2017
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Minneapolis, MN - Allen “Lance” Scarsella took the stand again for the entire day, Jan. 30, attempting to convince a jury that he was acting in self-defense the night he fired eight shots into a crowd of Black people on Nov. 23, 2015. The shooting came just after protesters had removed him from the occupation demanding justice for Jamar Clark. Scarsella testified that after most of the protesters turned to go back, he was still surrounded by a handful of “very aggressive” men. He claimed that the one closest to him pulled out a shiny object he believed to be a knife.

In less than a second, Scarsella pulled his gun from a shoulder holster, shot that man, and continued firing until his gun was empty and five men were seriously wounded. He claimed he did so because he feared for his life. There was no video evidence, and no knife recovered from the scene or any of the victims, their clothes and belongings were collected by hospital staff and entered into evidence. On cross-examination, Scarsella admitted that aside from a glancing blow several minutes and a block away, he suffered no injuries, no blows, no one choked him, kicked him, or pushed him to the ground.

Despite this, Scarsella wants jurors to believe that he acted in self-defense. Scarsella tried today to paint his group as innocents, who only went to the protest to observe. Asked if he had any sympathy for Jamar Clark (whose killing at the hands of Minneapolis police set off the 18-day protest at the police precinct building), Scarsella answered, “I didn’t feel one way or another about him. I don’t understand your question.”

Scarsella claimed that the Nov. 23 visit to the protest was spontaneous, and was unable to explain a text from Gustavsson on Thursday, Nov. 19, that read, “Dude, if this shit is going down on Monday, we need to get down there. I could rile so much shit up.” The men then spent the weekend camping and shooting guns, but Scarsella claims they never spoke of that text message or made any plans.

On the stand, Scarsella was pressed to explain dozens of violent, racist text messages he had exchanged with his friends in the days and months before the shooting. He dismissed them all as jokes, and “just words.” In one, he wrote how one could, “tempt a chimp to chimp out and then you get to shoot them.” In another, Scarsella praised the gun George Zimmerman used to murder Trayvon Martin, saying, “It’s cool that the gun I’m getting has been proven to kill black guys in a single shot.” He also wrote, “So they can take my gun and throw me in a cage. All for airing out one lousy n-----.” Many texts talked about how his Browning 1911 was particularly effective for killing Black or brown people. This is the gun – one of ten that he owns – that he fired on protesters in this case.

“The prosecution has made it clear enough that Scarsella has racist hate in his heart, but they didn’t charge him with any hate crime. We worry about this almost all-white suburban jury, and whether they will believe that he was afraid for his life in the face of all those angry Black folks, and whether that gives him a right to shoot,” said Loretta VanPelt of the Twin Cities Coalition for Justice for Jamar. She and others have followed the case closely. Closing arguments are expected on Jan. 31.

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