Minneapolis, MN – Allen ‘Lance’ Scarsella, an avowed racist, white supremacist, white nationalist and firearms enthusiast, shot five people in North Minneapolis on November 23, 2015. That night, Scarsella and a group of like-minded friends had gone to the ongoing Jamar Clark protest to “poke at people, record them, laugh amongst themselves and go home“, as his defense attorney said during opening statements.
This is the second of Unicorn Riot’s special report-backs from the trial that technically began on January 9, 2017.
Read the first part of our comprehensive report-backs from the Scarsella Trial – Part One: Jury Selection, Unicorn Riot Subpoenaed, Opening Statements by clicking on the image.
The visit on November 23 to the community-built and justice-driven 4th Precinct occupation was Scarsella’s second in four days. Through his actions that night, Scarsella made international news, left scars on the victims, and sent ripples through the community when he emptied the full magazine of his .45 semi-automatic handgun into a crowd of unarmed protesters, wounding five Black men.
As stated in Scarsella Trial – Part One, Allen and his group of co-defendants are part of the growing movement of white nationalists using coded language adopted through the internet and espousing white-supremacist ideals through terminology not recognized by the larger majority of the populace.
Allen Scarsella is charged with twelve felonies, one count of first-degree assault, one count of second-degree riot while armed, and five counts of second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon – causing substantial bodily harm as well as five more counts of second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon (note: on January 31st, Hennepin County Attorney’s Office added the five counts of second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon).
[Content Advisory: some of the language seen in this article may be disturbing and offensive to our audience.]
Watch the video below for a timeline of events:
We bring you to January 18, 2017, the day after the jury was sworn in and the opening statements were made. Prior to welcoming in the jurors for the day, Judge Hilary Caligiuri announced that she was striking from the record partial information given by the prosecutor during her opening statement regarding Teven King’s injuries (one of the five victims). She had quoted a doctor who said that if Teven had been thirty minutes later in arriving to the emergency room, he would likely have died. The judge concluded it was hearsay. The jurors were let in and court took session.
WITNESS TESTIMONY – DAY TWO
Hennepin County Attorney Judith Hawley called Julio Suarez as the state’s first witness. Hawley misspoke Julio Suarez’ last name as ‘Sanchez’, which he corrected as he rose his right hand to “swear” that he would tell the truth.
Suarez is a thirty-three-year-old Marine Corps veteran that, like Scarsella, is a firearms fanatic. Suarez said that he met Scarsella through 4chan’s /k/ channel, an “anonymous image board” populated by “weapons enthusiasts, a lot of gun nerds”.
He said that his 4chan user name ‘Saiga Marine’ came from his old Saiga-style rife and from his history as a Marine Corps vet, and that Scarsella’s user name was ‘Black Powder Ranger’ for his liking of black powder guns.
Suarez testified that he organized a meet-up in the summer of 2015 in Pine City for “gun nerds” from 4chan’s weapons board /k/ to get together and shoot each others’ guns. This event brought Suarez and Scarsella for the first time in real life, and would lead to them going to the gym together and hanging out on occasion.
After asking about some of the witness’ background information, County Attorney Hawley directed the state’s questioning to November of 2015. Suarez confirmed that he knew of the Jamar Clark murder and had watched some of the “streams” of the protests online. He said he went down to the protests with ‘Lance’ (Scarsella) on the 19th of November. When asked about how he felt about the protests happening at the 4th Precinct, he said:
“I didn’t think it was being done in the right way considering the situation.” – Julio Suarez on the protests at the 4th Precinct
He said that he had talked about his opinions on the protest with Scarsella in “light terms” and said that Scarsella hadn’t expressed any opinion on the protesters. He said that he wanted to livestream the protests “for the 4chan community” because he “wanted a little bit of internet fame”. Screenshots of Suarez’ livestream account and event name from his broadcast during 19th of November are seen below.
Suarez said that he thought media had been exaggerating and falsely portraying the protests as “a lot bigger than it actually was”, and that he wanted to see if the “reports of violence” were true.
County Attorney Hawley asked Suarez, “You thought that you would get something out of this with the 4chan community?”, to which he answered that the 4chan community has “a lot of lingo” and he wanted to be funny, but,
“In hindsight it was very stupid … hey, it is what it is.” – Julio Suarez
While Suarez was streaming on the night of November 19, he said that Scarsella was receiving messages from the livestream chat. Meanwhile, Joseph Backman, a fellow /k/ member and another of the co-defendants in the second-degree riot while armed charge, was monitoring the livestream from afar.
Suarez who brandished a gun in the video on the way to the precinct, declaring “we are locked and loaded,” said he and Scarsella had been armed the night of November 19. He went on to say that every time he saw Scarsella he was armed (except at the gym), and the night of November 23 he saw Scarsella wearing his firearm in a shoulder holster.
Hawley asked why he made the video and Suarez said he was trying to “be bombastic for the 4chan community” by using specific terms and language familiar to 4channers.
Exhibit 44, the video that Julio Suarez recorded while in the car with Allen Scarsella was then shown to the jury and the court. Watch the video below:
After the video was shown to court, Suarez was questioned about the language he was using in the video. He stated that he was referring to the “black Black Lives Matter protesters” when he said in the video that he was going to “fuckin’ see what these dindus are dinduing about”.
He said the term dindu originated on the internet in response to protests over the killing of black folks by police; the community would insist that the victim “didn’t do anything, when in fact they did”, he said. Hawley asked, “you thought a racially charged word like that would get a laugh?” to which he responded, “maybe”. In the video, Suarez says:
“Apparently fighting police and fighting paramedics is good enough to let you off with a slap on the wrist” – Suarez describing how he thinks Jamar Clark was let off with a ‘slap on the wrist’ (he was murdered by police by a single shot to the head execution-style)
Suarez was then asked about the term “cultural enriching.” He stated that the phrase is a euphemism that refers to a fight between two people of different races, and said he thought he was being funny by referencing this notion. Hawley then asked about making ‘the fire rise’, which Suarez said was a reference to the Batman movie The Dark Knight Rises.
Suarez then said that the term he used in the video was “loli” (pronounced “lolly” shortened from “lolita”), a term he claimed meant “child” but which is used specifically to refer to underage-appearing young females. He explained that the “search and rescue mission” referred to chatter on 4chan’s /k/ board about a child who had been livestreaming at the protests. In the video, Scarsella corrected Suarez to “search and recovery mission”; County Attorney Hawley pressed Suarez as to whether that phrase was used to refer to ‘recovering’ a dead body, to which Suarez answered “it can be”.
Exhibit 45, the video that Julio Suarez livestreamed while at the precinct with Allen Scarsella was then shown to the jury and the court. An excerpt of the livestream that Julio shot that day can be seen below (Content Advisory).
Suarez can be overheard at some point in the full video saying he was going to “rendezvous with Unicorn“, meaning he was going to seek out the Unicorn Riot livestream. He said in the livestream while walking through the protests that “my draw hand’s good“, which referred to being able to draw and fire a weapon quickly.
Hawley stopped the video at a point after Julio can be heard saying “a lot of SJW’s” and asked him what that acronym meant, to which he responded he was referring to ‘social justice warriors,’ or “someone who’s interested in equality but takes it to an extreme.”
While Suarez and Scarsella livestreamed, they encountered an individual from the /his/ board on 4chan and spoke with him briefly. A bit after being asked by some of the protesters why they were there, Suarez and Scarsella can be heard saying “this wouldn’t have happened if they’d had more money for their programs“, a racist meme that mocks oppressed communities experiencing tragedy.
Suarez’ livestream footage ended and the court used that time to take its morning break. After the break, Prosecuting Attorney Chris Freeman told the court that he had seen Cameron ‘Cam’ Clark, cousin to Jamar Clark and one of the victims of Scarsella’s shooting, in the courtroom, and had told him during the break to not come back in the court as that would violate the orders of his subpoena. Cam agreed to not come back in, saying he didn’t know he wasn’t supposed to have been sitting in on the proceedings, and said to Freeman that he had only been in there for about five minutes and he had already viewed the livestream video that they were showing.
Hennepin County Attorney Judith Hawley then started back with questioning Suarez. She asked about the encounter with Unicorn Riot journalist Niko by the 4th precinct front gates that were acting as barricades. Watch our footage of that interaction below (a piece of evidence that had not yet been admitted and published to court at this point in the proceedings):
Suarez said he “saw the opportunity to have some fun and quote some lines from The Dark Knight … quotes from The Dark Knight [Rises] are very popular for some reason on 4chan.”
Specifically popular are quotes from the character Bane, the film’s primary antagonist and who engages in numerous acts of violence throughout the film. Suarez said that he thought Bane represents chaos, and that as Suarez considers “yelling at police” to be “chaos rising” he went down to the 4th precinct in order to “watch the chaos“. He said he had “no intention of creating any violence” although he admitted he was continuously uttering provocative statements.
Suarez said that after the two had finished their ‘interview’ with Unicorn Riot, a ‘man in a parka’ approached Scarsella and Suarez, and they had a conversation while on Unicorn Riot’s livestream once again. The concerned community member, also known as the ‘man in a parka’, questioned their intentions and motives for being at the protest, and the two left soon after. Watch this interaction below (note that this video had yet to be admitted and published as evidence at this time):
Suarez mentioned that after their initial video went viral he realized he’d “done something stupid“.
County Attorney Hawley then began asking about the night of November 23. Suarez said that four men came to his house that night, all of whom were “weapons enthusiasts” that had met in person at the /k/ gathering Suarez had organized. They were Allen Scarsella and his three co-defendants, Daniel Macey (26 y/o – Pine Ridge, MN), Joseph Backman (27 y/o – Eagan, MN) and Nathan Gustavsson, screen name Arctic Fox (21 y/o – Hermantown, MN).
That night, the four men came to Suarez’ house to pick up a firearm Suarez had sold to Gustavsson, Suarez noticed that Scarsella was carrying his handgun in a holster. Suarez told the four men he wouldn’t go again to the protest, but volunteered to watch the livestream feed from his home. At one point during their livestream from November 23, Suarez communicated to Scarsella the audio wasn’t working on the feed.
Suarez said that when the four returned to Suarez’ home approximately an hour later, they were “scared… looked like they had just been in a fight.” Gustavsson was “bleeding and missing a tooth” and Scarsella said he shot someone. Hawley pressed Suarez on what Scarsella had told him that night when they returned: she stated that Scarsella had said “he saw someone reaching and beat him on the draw” and “dumped a mag,” and Suarez said “correct” to both.
During the state’s examination, Suarez did not say whether Scarsella appeared to be injured, but did testify that Scarsella did not say that he had been struck. He said Daniel Macey had a puffy face and seemed to have cried before coming to his house. Julio’s girlfriend Elizabeth Werner came over and the four stayed at Suarez’ home for “maybe twenty minutes“.
Later that night, Scarsella called Suarez and asked him to take custody of Scarsella’s guns, which Suarez refused to do. After a couple more questions, the prosecution was finished and a lunch break ensued.
The cross-examination by Defense Attorney Peter Martin focused first on Suarez’ background as a Marine. Suarez received combat training for deployment as an infantryman during the Iraq war. Suarez said it was his idea to go to the 4th precinct, and he contacted Scarsella to invite him to go with him.
Attorney Martin pressed Suarez on whether Suarez had an “exit strategy” for leaving the 4th Precinct; as Suarez said he hadn’t, Martin reasoned that Suarez did not consider the protest a “hostile environment“.
Attorney Martin asked about the goal of attending the protest, to which Suarez replied was “to get on camera with Unicorn Riot.” Earlier he had said he “wanted a little bit of internet fame” and to livestream for “the 4chan community”, where Suarez said he has been active since 2011, and about which Martin remarked it seemed like a “pretty inclusive place“.
Suarez classified memes on the weapons board /k/ as “humorous, satirical“. Featured in the livestream video that Julio shot on the November 19 is the “master race” meme, which Suarez described as where the “team that has better equipment” is considered to be the better ‘team’. Suarez admitted he knows of the historical connotations to Nazi ideology, but claimed he “didn’t mean that“.
Suarez further defined the “cultural enrichment” meme as “when someone not of your race causes some harm” to you. He was then asked about Bane references, which he called ‘Bane-posting’. Suarez claimed that some Bane memes were not necessarily violent but rather nihilistic, and that ‘watching the fire rise’ is akin to ‘watching civil unrest begin’.
He also said his “knock this shit out” comment was not meant to denote violence, and that none of the memes that were uttered during their livestream videos, including talking about getting caught, were pre-planned.
Exhibit 46, the video recorded by Unicorn Riot while at the precinct on November 19, an ‘interview’ with Allen Scarsella and Julio Suarez was then shown to the court. Watch the video below:
During the video, Scarsella can be heard saying “we should reach out to our melanin-enriched communities … more money for them programs … we need more community outreach“, which are all racially insensitive 4chan memes. He also repeated a variety of Bane memes, as well as “it’s happening“, a meme meant to indicate that apocalyptic events are about to unfold.
The defense then turned their questioning to the night of November 23. Suarez stated at this point that he didn’t have anything to do with the setting-up or the running of the livestream. Suarez said that when the four men returned to Suarez’ place after their visit to the precinct, Scarsella was visibly shaking and his speech was slow and slurred. This behavior, Suarez said, was similar to reactions he had seen in the military from others who had faced stressful situations.
The defense ended their first round of questioning by asking about Suarez’ being armed during their visit to the precinct on November 19. It is known that Suarez was carrying his firearm on his person, but the police record indicates he told police he had left the revolver in his car. Suarez claimed he didn’t remember saying that, but didn’t deny it, either.
Prosecuting Attorney Hawley began the second round of questioning by asking whether the posts on /k/ are “highly racially offensive“, to which Suarez replied “fifty-fifty.” She pointed to the fact that he said it was just a meme every time he’d been asked if what he said on the livestream was offensive and Julio agreed. When asked specifically about memes that derived from the phrase “melanin-enriched communities“, Suarez responded that he considers such things “subjectively offensive“.
Hawley questioned him on the Bane quote, “we’re going to watch the fire rise” because what Suarez had said was “we’re going to make the fire rise“; Suarez claimed it’s said both ways in The Dark Knight Rises.
Suarez stated that he was not sympathetic to Jamar Clark when asked directly by prosecuting attorney Hawley, who then said that during the interview with Unicorn Riot, Suarez “led the Unicorn Riot fellow to believe that you were there in support of the Jamar Clark protests” and that Suarez used the phrases ‘master race’ and ‘final solution’ in a “darkly joking” way.
The prosecution then focused on Suarez’ assessment of his shaken-up friends; he had said during the defense’s cross-examination that it seemed as though they might have come from a situation of combat. Suarez agreed with Hawley that a person who had just shot five people could look pale and in shock, as Scarsella looked like when he came to his house after the the shooting. At this point, Suarez offered his opinion that “he [Scarsella] was afraid for his life“, to which the prosecuting attorney retorted “Don’t volunteer information to help your friend.”
The defense verified that ‘making the fire rise’ or ‘watching the fire rise’ was a meme, after which no further questions were asked and Suarez was excused from the stand.
After the afternoon break occurred, a doctor and a person who worked the crime scene of the shooting testified, followed by Niko Georgiades, a journalist with Unicorn Riot.
Niko explained what he did for a ‘day job’ and then was asked about Unicorn Riot. Niko explained the mission of Unicorn Riot, why we call ourselves a “collective”, and talked about some of the issues on which we focus our coverage.
He was asked to explain what livestreaming meant to Unicorn Riot, to which Niko explained:
“It means that we are able to provide our audience with a clear picture of what’s happening, no filtration, no bias, there’s no editing. We’re here, this is what’s happening, this is the voice of the people … you’re able to watch … and almost feel their passion and feel their emotion.” – Niko Georgiades
Hennepin County Attorney Chris Freeman then asked about how often Unicorn Riot was livestreaming during the eighteen day occupation of the 4th Precinct, to which Niko responded that about six hours every day were streamed for at least seventeen of the eighteen days. Niko said about the livestreaming, “I like to approach it in a way of giving a voice to the people” and asks interviewees questions.
The night of November 19, when Allen Scarsella came to the 4th Precinct along with Julio Suarez, was then brought up. Exhibit 46, Unicorn Riot’s first interview with Scarsella and Suarez on our livestream, was then re-published and shown once again to the jury and the court. Watch the livestream interview below:
Prosecuting Attorney Chris Freeman stopped the video a few times and asked about the initial approach of Suarez, if in all of the “multitude” of interviews if Niko had ever heard anyone mention “the fire’s rising” (this question was objected to and overruled), and Niko said “I had never heard that“.
Exhibit 47 was then shown to the jury and court after Ex. 46 was done. Exhibit 47 was the second interaction between Scarsella and Suarez recorded by Unicorn Riot the night of November 19. Watch the video below:
Freeman stopped the video at the point where “that gentlemen used the term agent provocateur” and asked Niko to elaborate on what he thought that term meant. He then played the video until the end of the specific interaction (around the 2:03 mark in the video above) and had no further questions.
Defense Attorney Heinrich then asked Niko to elaborate on what he meant when he said that “agent provocateurs could be working for the powers” to which Niko stated, “there’s been evidence of agent provocateurs going in to a protest or a march, and they’re actually police officers or they’re empowered within the state“.
Heinrich asked if Niko was saying that there was agent provocateurs at the 4th Precinct and Niko said there was evidence of individuals at the protests entering the back of State Troopers’ vehicles. Evidence of this can be seen from footage taken on November 21, 2015, a day which fell between the two visits made to the precinct by Allen Scarsella. Watch the video below:
Niko briefly described that a tougher security culture had been created because of the real threat the encampment had experienced during the visit from Scarsella and Suarez, who had been armed. He spoke about how protesters were receiving threats, and how those working in the kitchen had to check the food to ensure threats of poisoned food had not been followed through.
Attorney Heinrich then asked if Unicorn Riot covers protests and things “with a liberal bend“, to which Niko responded “I’m not sure what liberal would be.” Heinrich elaborated, reaffirming that Niko had said that Unicorn Riot focuses on “communities that aren’t heard” like the “4th Precinct and like Standing Rock” and then she asked if Unicorn Riot ever speaks to the other side, like the police. This was quickly objected to and overruled; Niko then said that Unicorn Riot had interviewed the police spokespeople plenty of times at the precinct. The judge then jumped in and excused the jury for the day as it was four thirty in the afternoon.
WITNESS TESTIMONY – DAY THREE – PART 1 (part 2 continued in Scarsella Trial Part 3)
Unicorn Riot’s Niko Georgiades was called again to the stand the morning of January 19 to continue his testimony. Scarsella’s defense attorney continued with questions regarding Unicorn Riot’s alternative media platform and its separation from mainstream media. She then asked if Unicorn Riot’s live feeds were being replicated on any other sites on the internet, to which Niko responded “there was a full force of racist trolling that was happening during the live feeds of Jamar Clark protests.” The defense then had nothing further to ask.
Prosecuting Attorney Chris Freeman spoke quickly about security at the precinct and how reactions from the armed visit on November 19 led to people feeling wary of face-masks, he then asked Niko to once again elaborate on agent provocateurs.¹ Niko stated that when that term was brought up in the video at the precinct, people had just been attempting to put words to what was happening at the moment because it was so strange.
Then Niko said that “as we’ve witnessed in Denver, they have these Shadow Teams, where they’ll shadow protests, or put people who are undercover into protests“. He furthered though there was folks masked up, concealing their identity, that the community at the precinct did not know if this armed, racist, provocative element was working with the police or in their own independent grouping and judged them by their actions. Niko was then excused from the stand and released from his subpoena (to allow him to document the court proceedings).
1. It must be noted that during times of resistance, some participants, in order to protect themselves, carry a variety of objects, wear all black and conceal their identity by wearing masks. The community at the 4th Precinct learned to accurately judge those wearing masks or carrying objects based on their actions and body language. They saw the importance of understanding whether or not certain participants were there to protect themselves and those around them or using their concealed identity against the resistance.
We will pick up our Scarsella Trial report-back part 3 with further testimony from January 19 and beyond.
Read the first part of our comprehensive report-backs from the Scarsella Trial – Part One: Jury Selection, Unicorn Riot Subpoenaed, Opening Statements by clicking on the image.
To see Unicorn Riot’s past coverage in relation to this shooting, see below:
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