Companion says Scarsella shot Jamar Clark protesters in self-defense

Nathan Gustavsson
Nathan Gustavsson
Hennepin County Sheriff's Office

Updated 4 p.m. | Posted 3:30 p.m.

One of the men who showed up outside the 4th Precinct police station with Allen Scarsella as demonstrators protested the police shooting of Jamar Clark testified Friday that Scarsella opened fire only after a protester threatened him with a knife.

Nathan Gustavsson, who along with Joseph Backman and Daniel Macey, were with Scarsella near the north Minneapolis 4th Precinct station on Nov. 23, 2015, told a court that at the time of the shooting, a smaller group of five to seven protesters had followed them away from the main demonstration site. He said both he and Scarsella had been assaulted and that they were just trying to get away without being hurt anymore.

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Scarsella, 24, has pleaded not guilty to the seven felony counts he faces for shooting five men that night. He's expected to testify Friday afternoon in his own defense.

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

Gustavsson, a co-defendant in the shooting who is charged with second degree riot, volunteered to testify in Scarsella's defense, although he was advised against it by his lawyer.

When asked by defense attorney Peter Martin why he gave up his right to not testify, Gustavsson said, "I'm here today because the truth needs to be known and justice needs to be done."

Prosecutors say Scarsella was motivated by bias against African-Americans when he showed up at the Black Lives Matter protest over the fatal police shooting Clark.

Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Judith Hawley aggressively questioned Gustavsson on his views of African-Americans. He replied he had no "general problem" with African-Americans. However, he later admitted using the n-word and the shortened version "nig" in text messages found on his phone.

In a text message, one of Allen Scarsella's companions said he was bringing his boombox with him to a Black Lives Matter protest on Nov. 23, 2015 to overpower "nig beats." When asked if that was a reference to a racial epithet describing black people, Nathan Gustavsson, who is white, said yes, and that it more specifically referred to "rap music."

Gustavsson also admitted that a photograph on his phone showed a crudely drawn caricature of the face of an African-American man. The drawing in the photo was sitting on top of a toilet seat.

A person pointing a rifle at the drawing is visible in the photo. Hawley said the photo was apparently taken in the outhouse of the campsite in Pine City, Minn., where he, Scarsella and others went to hold "meet ups." Gustavsson said he, Scarsella and others were at the campsite shooting guns and drinking days before the shooting.

Hawley also pressed Gustavsson to explain what he meant by text messages he exchanged with Scarsella several days before the shooting. One of the messages by Gustavsson read, "I have an idea to really stir s--- up" and another said, "I know how to make big news. Or get them to disperse."

Gustavsson said he meant that they were going to livestream their appearance at the protest.