Four men have been charged for their involvement in a shooting of five Black Lives Matter demonstrators who were rallying against the police killing of unarmed black man Jamar Clark in Minneapolis — the latest flashpoint in a controversial debate in the United States over excessive force and discriminatory policing.
Eight days after Clark's death, the men wore masks and were armed as they crashed a vigil for him that was being held outside a police station in the 4th Precinct on the north side of the city. After clashing with members of the crowd, the men allegedly attacked a group of protesters and shots were fired. None of the five demonstrators who were wounded, each of whom were black, received life-threatening injuries.
Authorities on Monday charged the person who allegedly fired the shots, 23-year-old Allen Lawrence Scarsella, with five counts of assault with a dangerous weapon and one count of second-degree rioting with a dangerous weapon. Prosecutors said that he had admitted to opening fire at the event. He is currently being held on $500,000 bail.
The other men who accompanied Scarsella — Joseph Martin Backman, 27, Nathan Wayne Gustavsson, 21, and Daniel Thomas Macey, 26 — were each charged with second-degree riot while armed and are being held on $250,000 bail. Scarsella, Gustavsson, and Backman are white, police said, while Macey is Asian.
Related: Witnesses Say Five Black Lives Matter Protesters Were Shot by White Supremacists in Minneapolis
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said that the shooting was racially motivated. He told reporters at a press conference Monday that an investigation is ongoing and that his office is deciding whether to bring more charges against the suspects. He added that authorities are still determining whether another person was also involved, although he said that the "principal players" were in custody.
Scarsella lives in St. Paul and grew up in Lakeville, Minnesota, according to his Facebook page, where his cover photo features the one-starred "Bonnie Blue" flag often associated with the Confederacy. One of his Facebook photo albums is titled "shooting" and shows what appears to be him and a friend at a shooting range.
Gustavsson lives in Hermantown, Minnesota, and is from Hibbing, according to a Facebook page that became inaccessible on Wednesday afternoon. The page included a profile picture of him wearing a camouflage jacket and holding a rifle.
As part of the investigation, authorities became aware of a 4chan website message chain in which the men talked about turning up at a Black Lives Matter protest for Clark intending to "stir things up" and "cause commotion," and according to a criminal complaint obtained by theGuardian.
Related: Two Suspects Arrested After Shooting of Five Black Lives Matter Protesters in Minneapolis
Questions have been raised about whether Clark was handcuffed when he was shot, which police have denied. Police said the incident began when they were called to North Minneapolis around 12:45am on November 15 following a report of a domestic assault. When they arrived, they saw a man who was later identified as Clark interfering with paramedics who were helping the victim. Officers tried to calm him, but there was a struggle and an officer fired at least once, according to police, hitting Clark in the head. Clark died the next day. The two officers who were involved are on paid leave.
Meanwhile demonstrators have remained camped out for two weeks outside the police station, and have appealed to people on social media to provide firewood, hot food, drinks, and hand warmers.
Snow has stopped momentarily. But its wet & cold. We could use fire wood, hot food & drinks, handwarmers, and people!! — t (@okaytaylor)December 1, 2015