CHICAGO: Four men were charged over a shooting that wounded five people at a rally protesting the police killing of an African American, US prosecutors said.
Allen Scarsella, 23, the only charged suspect to have fired shots at the November 24 rally in Minneapolis, Minnesota, had planned to livestream efforts to “rile” things up, according to officials.
The shooting came as the United States is embroiled in an acrimonious national debate about racism and the use of deadly force by police.
“The defendants’ own statements, their videos, show that these are sick people,” Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said.
“Maybe I shouldn’t say that, but the language they use, and what they say about fellow Americans, citizens, are just not acceptable.”
Scarsella was described as an anti-government, racist gun-lover with “very intense opinions” by a police officer acquaintance who received a panicked phone call in which he admitted to shooting five people, charging papers said.
The officer encouraged Scarsella to turn himself in and hand his guns over to police.
When police arrived at his home later that day, they found “numerous” weapons, including a 45-caliber handgun “consistent with the type of discharged cartridge casings found at the shooting scene,” charging papers said.
Scarsella’s phone contained a stream of text messages discussing plans to disrupt the protest and livestream the confrontation.
“We need to get out there I could rile up so much shit up,” one message read.
The phone also contained a number of photos of Scarsella with guns, racist images and pictures from a rural gathering where Scarsella and other men are wearing camouflage clothing and holding guns alongside a confederate flag.
The divisive red, white and blue Civil War-era battle flag is regarded by many as a bitter symbol of racism and slavery that has no place in modern America.
Black Lives Matter Minneapolis has been holding daily demonstrations to protest the fatal police shooting of Jamar Clark, 24, who they said was handcuffed when he was shot in the head on November 15.
Scarsella posted a video of himself on his way to confront the demonstrators on November 19 in which he and a friend made “derogatory” comments about African Americans and said they are going to do some “reverse cultural enriching” and “make the fire rise,” court documents said.
They are dressed in camouflage clothing and masks and the unidentified friend ends the video by brandishing a gun and saying “stay white.”
Scarsella was charged with five counts of assault with a dangerous weapon causing substantial bodily harm and one count of rioting with a dangerous weapon.
The other three men were each charged with one count of rioting with a dangerous weapon.
Freeman said further charges could still be laid against Scarsella and the other men and noted that a federal investigation is also underway, amid criticism that the men had not faced more serious counts.