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Scarsella gets 15 years for shooting 5 at Jamar Clark protest

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

Updated 2:43 p.m. | Posted 2:08 p.m.

Allen Scarsella, the Bloomington man convicted of shooting and wounding five men at a protest over the 2015 police killing of Jamar Clark, was sentenced Wednesday to 15 years in prison. 

The shooting happened Nov. 23, 2015, a little over a week after Clark was shot and killed by a Minneapolis police officer. 

Clark's shooting set off weeks of protests, including an extended encampment outside the 4th Precinct police station in north Minneapolis.

Scarsella, 25, testified during his trial that he was not sympathetic to the protesters, so he went to the encampment site to make fun of them and record some video. When protesters chased him away down a dark street that night, Scarsella claimed he felt threatened, so he pulled out his gun and fired in self-defense.

During his trial, prosecutors presented evidence that Scarsella, who is white, was motivated by racial bias to shoot the protesters, who are all black. The prosecution showed jurors a trail of racist text messages that Scarsella sent to his friends.

Paramedics tended to one of the victims.
Paramedics tend to one of the shooting victims.
Christopher Juhn for MPR News file

In some cases, he referred to black people as chimps; another text message mentioned shooting "black guys;" he texted his girlfriend from a Wal-Mart complaining of "smelly brown people" at the store.

Scarsella said he was joking and that the text messages were only meant to be shared with friends who knew he wasn't serious.

One of his victims, however, told the court of the deep damage Scarsella had done to him.

"Right now, still to this day, I can't work because of the pain ... I can't provide for my family," shooting victim Cameron Clark told Judge Hilary Caligiuri prior to the sentencing as Scarsella sat nearby in a jail-issued orange jumpsuit. Clark was shot in the leg with the bullet narrowly missing an artery.

Defense attorney Laura Heinrich told the judge prior to sentencing that Scarsella was remorseful about the shooting. "That is something he feels deeply sorry about," she said.

She pressed the court for a probationary sentence, warning that descriptions of the crime as a "racially motivated mass shooting puts Mr. Scarsella in a position where he's likely going to be targeted for violent conduct" in prison.

Retribution, she said, was not the goal of sentencing.

Scarsella was found guilty on a total of 12 counts, including assault with a dangerous weapon and riot. 

Before hearing his sentence, he told the judge Wednesday he was remorseful that he'd hurt people.

"I'll live with that for the rest of my life, he said. "It's not what I wanted. I wish that it hadn't happened." 

Scarsella will be required to serve at least two-thirds of his 15-year sentence in prison, Caligiuri said. He was facing as many as 19 years in prison.

Before the sentencing, Cameron Clark told the judge that Scarsella should have been on trial for premeditated murder. Had the roles been reversed, Clark added, and it had been him, a black man, shooting white people, the law would have come down heavier.

The courtroom was packed. Before beginning the hearing, Caligiuri asked people sitting in the gallery, as well as the court staff sitting in the jury box, to refrain from making any audible reactions to any of the words spoken by anyone during the proceeding.

Just before passing sentence, Caligiuri told Scarsella she was amazed that people, particularly well-educated people, "still held such repugnant ideas in this days and age." 

She said she didn't know if that's really what he believed or if it was just preening for an audience. 

"Either way, you brought a loaded gun" to the protest, she said. "I don't believe for a second you wore a mask that night because it was cold ... The only saving grace is that your shots didn't kill their targets."