'If you're black, you're bad:' Old classmate describes protest shooter's attitudes

Allen Scarsella
Allen Scarsella is accused of shooting Black Lives Matter protesters outside the 4th Precinct.
Hennepin County Sheriff's Office

Brett Levin was admittedly nervous when he took the stand in the shooting trial of Allen Scarsella on Tuesday.

Levin, a Burnsville cop, said he grew up with Scarsella and knew him by his nickname, Lance.

The two had been in touch regularly throughout the years, Levin said, and Scarsella reached out to him in the early morning hours of Nov. 24, 2015 — just a few hours after five men were shot at a demonstration in north Minneapolis protesting the fatal police shooting of Jamar Clark.

Scarsella, 24, has pleaded not guilty to the seven felony counts he faces. The trial started two weeks ago.

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At the time of the shooting, Levin was a Mankato police officer. During a five-minute telephone conversation in November 2015, Levin testified, Scarsella admitted to him that he opened fire on a group of protesters.

Levin said he and Scarsella attended high school in Lakeville together. They played football on the same team, and sometimes went to the gun range together.

And on the night Scarsella shot five people protesting the police killing of Jamar Clark, he reached out to his old friend, Levin testified.

"Did Scarsella tell you, 'Dude, I [messed] up?'" asked assistant Hennepin County Attorney Judith Hawley.

"Yes," replied Levin.

Levin said Scarsella told him one of the protesters punched him in the face. Scarsella claimed he fired his gun when he saw one of the protesters pulled out a knife. Levin also testified that Scarsella asked him what he should do next.

"I told him numerous times, 'Stop talking to me. Turn yourself in immediately,'" Levin said.

After Levin hung up, he said he told a supervisor, who told him to write down what Scarsella told him. Levin said that sergeant later contacted Minneapolis police with the information.

Hawley asked Levin if he was aware of Scarsella's opinion about African Americans.

At times, Levin said, Scarsella sent him text messages that were "negative" about African Americans.

Levin admitted he replied with "similar comments," although he didn't elaborate other than to say the two engaged in "locker room talk." Levin also admitted Scarsella had an attitude that he described as "if you're black, you're bad."

Cameron Clark, Jamar Clark's cousin, was one of the men wounded in the shooting that night, and he said he heard Scarsella yell a racial slur.

Shortly after that, shots rang out and Clark was hit twice.

"I caught the third and the fifth shots," Clark said. One bullet hit him in the leg and the other in the foot.

Clark said he didn't fall, but managed to limp over to help two friends hit by gun fire, Draper Larkins and Walter Hoskins.

A neighborhood friend drove them all to North Memorial hospital, Clark said. Larkins was struck in the arm and Hoskins was hit twice — once in the leg and another time in the back.

Dr. William Lundberg, orthopedic surgeon at North Memorial Hospital, testified Monday that a bullet fractured Hoskins' femur.

A titanium rod had to be inserted into the bone and it will likely be there for the rest of his life, Lundberg said. A photo displayed in court showed Hoskins' scarred back.

Hoskins said he remembered seeing a masked man shooting at the crowd with intent.

"He had two hands on the gun?" asked assistant Hennepin County attorney Christopher Freeman, no relation to County Attorney Mike Freeman.

"Yes," said Hoskins, who added that the shooter was moving toward protesters and moving the gun as he fired.

When asked what was going through his mind during the shooting, Hoskins chuckled, "This white boy about to kill me, straight up."

Peter Martin, Scarsella's public defender, said his client thought he saw someone in the group of protesters reach for a weapon before he opened fire. His attorneys say he was "scared out of his mind," and fired his gun in self-defense as a group of 30 to 40 protesters surrounded him.

All five shooting victims — Larkins, Clark, Hoskins, Teven King and Wesley Martin — as well as the doctors who treated them have testified in the trial.

Correction (Jan. 24, 2017): A previous version of this story inaccurately stated Scarsella's plea. This post has been updated