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Charges: Man pulled gun on Somali teens at Eden Prairie McDonald's

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Billal Abdi talked about his experience at the Eden Prairie McDonalds
Billal Abdi and a group of teenagers, many of whom were in the Eden Prairie McDonalds the night of the incident, joined a press conference in Minneapolis to talk about their experience.
Tim Nelson | MPR News

Updated 2:15 p.m. | Posted 12:01 p.m.

Lloyd Edward Johnson
Lloyd Edward Johnson
Courtesy of Hennepin County Sheriff's Office

Hennepin County prosecutors said Monday they filed felony charges against a man who allegedly provoked a confrontation with Somali-American teens at an Eden Prairie McDonald's and then pulled a gun on the teens as the situation escalated.

Lloyd Edward Johnson, 55, of Eden Prairie was charged with felony terroristic threats as well as carrying a pistol without a permit, a gross misdemeanor.

The Hennepin County Attorney's Office said two young women told police they were trying to pay for their food with a digital app, but it was not working and that Johnson, who was behind them in line, told them to hurry up.

The charging complaint says Johnson then said, "you were probably trying to pay with EBT," a reference to the electronic benefit transfer card used by low-income people to access their federal benefits.

"One of the women turned and answered him back. Johnson then approached the other woman, said some things to her and balled his hand into a fist, making her fear he was going to hit her," the prosecutor's office said in a statement.  The confrontation escalated as the girl's friends responded.

"One of the women said Johnson broke away from the group but returned seconds later with his cell phone, appearing to record the argument. He then told everyone to back up and pulled his handgun from his waistband before walking out the door," according to the complaint.

"Mr. Johnson did everything he could to provoke this incident, by insulting the young lady in front of him, to confronting a second person and finally pulling a gun after he already had moved away from the confrontation," Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said in a statement. "While he is innocent until proven guilty, this is outrageous behavior and it is only through sheer luck that no one was injured by his actions."

Freeman is expected to speak more on the charges Monday afternoon.

Johnson was charged by summons and a first appearance has not yet been set.

Partial video of the incident posted on social media shows some of the confrontation. Investigators say it took a week to obtain the store video.

When police interviewed him, Johnson admitted he did make the comment about EBT and that was insulting, according to the complaint, which also says that police recovered a semi-automatic handgun from Johnson with a magazine loaded with 10 rounds of ammunition.

One of the teens at the restaurant said Monday that he and others feared for their lives.

"We saw the man who was yelling, 'Don't touch me, get away from me,' and he was acting extremely crazy," one of the teens, 17-year-old Billal Abdi, said Monday at a press conference with Jaylani Hussein executive director of the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. "He proceeded to pull out the gun, and all of us scattered, so we wouldn't get shot."

Hussein told reporters it was clear to him that the teens were "racially and religiously profiled by both the gunman and management" on duty and that restaurant staff would have acted differently if the gunman involved were black and the teens involved were white.

McDonald's management failed to intervene to de-escalate the situation, he said as he called for the chain to fire the managers.

Paul Ostergaard, the Eden Prairie restaurant's owner-operator, said later that one person who had been working for the restaurant was no longer employed, adding that the "incident is not a reflection of the values that we instill in our employees."