The attorney for a Lauderdale man accused of shooting and wounding two Somali-American men told a Minneapolis court room that his client fired his gun in self-defense.
Anthony Sawina's trial began Tuesday in Hennepin County District Court. One of the victims countered that they were on their way to prayers and had given no reason for anyone to shoot.
Sawina faces nine felony counts including attempted premeditated murder.
Hussein Gelle, 22, said he and his four friends, Hanad Abdi, Abdulahi Aden, Abdirahman Hassan and Abdullahi Mohamed Yusuf were on their way to early morning prayers last June after playing basketball. Gelle testified that Sawina approached their stopped car.
According to Gelle, Sawina, who is white, said some vulgar things about Muslims that Gelle and his friends challenged. Gelle said Sawina admitted saying "F-Muslims" and then asked what they were going to do about it.
Gelle said two of the men got out of the car as Sawina pulled out a gun and started firing. Gelle said he couldn't remember if he heard the shots before or after his friends got out of the car. But he said he does remember hearing Sawina say, "I have a right to carry and I'm going to kill you."
Gelle said the driver, Hassan, was ducking his head and was unable to get the car out of neutral right away. After they managed to drive off, Gelle said he noticed his left leg was bleeding.
"I felt like a bruise, like a pinch," said Gelle. "Then I saw a whole bunch of blood."
Gelle said Aden took off his camise, a traditional Muslim shirt, to try and help stop the bleeding. Then they noticed Aden was bleeding from a wound in one of his legs. Gelle said they didn't call 911. Instead they drove around the block a few times looking for the two friends who jumped out of Hassan's Chevy Impala. Eventually, they gave up the search and went to a hospital's emergency room for treatment. Gelle said the doctors told him a bullet had passed through his calf.
Defense attorney Murad Mohammad said the evening didn't quite happen like that. He said Sawina didn't fire his gun at the men, who he referred to as "alleged victims," until the man in the front passenger side of the car got out and started to approach him. "Why? To give him a hug?" Mohammad asked during his opening statement to the jury.
Mohammad also told jurors to ponder why the men didn't call 911.
Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Patrick Lofton said phone records show Sawina didn't call 911 either.