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Attorneys spar over video evidence in 4th Precinct shooting case

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Allen Scarsella
Allen Scarsella
Hennepin County Sheriff's Office

Attorneys for Allen "Lance" Scarsella, the man accused of shooting five people protesting the fatal police shooting of Jamar Clark, argued that prosecutors shouldn't be allowed to use a video of Scarsella at the protest site days before the shooting as evidence. 

The spat was one of several pretrial motions discussed at a hearing on Wednesday. Most measures were accepted by both the prosecution and defense — including one to bar witnesses or spectators from wearing Black Lives Matter or Jamar Clark T-shirts or buttons in the courtroom.  

Scarsella's trial starts next week. Prosecutors say he fired eight shots and hit five people — all African-Americans.

Wednesday's hearing mostly involved standard practice, noncontroversial pretrial motions — excluding the dispute over potential video evidence.

The defense argued that video taken of Scarsella and another man going to the protest site and interacting with protesters on Nov. 19, 2015, was not related to the shooting four days later. 

However, prosecutors said that right after Scarsella made the video at the precinct, he contacted three other men and they started planning on returning to the site at another time. The prosecution believes the video is very relevant to the case.

The shootings took place near the 4th Precinct police station in north Minneapolis, where crowd of people gathered to protest the killing of Clark, which happened in the area less than two weeks before.

Defense attorneys have said Scarsella and three other men went to the protest to poke a little fun at the protesters and livestream the video online. At the protest, the defense says the men began to fear for their lives when members of the crowd started to ask them what they were doing there.

Scarsella has pleaded not guilty to seven felony charges: one count of second-degree riot, five counts of second-degree assault and one count of first-degree assault — the most serious charge he faces because one of the people shot suffered serious injuries.

It's likely that Judge Hillary Caligiuri will rule on the controversial pretrial motions argued in court.