Scarsella Trial: Part Six – Defense Attempts to Discredit Protesters Using Police Videos

Minneapolis, MN – After the State of Minnesota called over thirty witnesses in its high-profile trial against white supremacist Allen ‘Lance’ Scarsella, Scarsella’s defense called its first witness to the stand in the late morning of January 26th, 2017. Scarsella, claiming self-defense, admitted to shooting five unarmed Black protesters in North Minneapolis on November 23, 2015.

Scarsella shot protesters at the historic eighteen-day long occupation of the 4th Precinct police station in late 2015, after the Minneapolis Police’s killing of Jamar Clark. On February the 1st, 2017, Scarsella, who has sat in administrative segregation in the Hennepin County jail since November 24, 2015, was found guilty on all twelve felonies levied against him. Scarsella’s sentencing date is set for April 26, 2017.

This is the sixth part of Unicorn Riot’s comprehensive report-backs featuring testimony and exhibits from January 26, 2017. To see our first five reports from the Scarsella trial, see below:

Read Scarsella Trial – Part One: Jury Selection, Unicorn Riot Subpoenaed, Opening Statements | Part Two: “In hindsight it was very stupid” | Part Three: Jury Sees Videos Around Mass Shooting | Part Four: Shooting Victims Testify, | Part Five: Cell Phone Extraction Shows Scarsella’s Hardened Racism.
[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 that led to the shooting:


WITNESS TESTIMONY – DAY EIGHT (JANUARY 26TH) – PART 2 (part 1 started in Scarsella Trial Part 5)

(Names of people on the stand testifying are signified by italics)

After finishing its slate of two dozen plus witnesses that took eight days, the state rested its case against Scarsella in the morning of January 26th. Judge Caliguiri resumed court in downtown Minneapolis at the conclusion of a short morning break and the defense was asked if they would like to bring anything up, to which they stated that they would wait until after resting.

Judge Caliguiri then asked Scarsella if he understood that the defense was now starting their case. After consulting with counsel, Scarsella, who wore a dark colored suit and sat next to his counsel Peter Martin, at the far left of his table, stood up and spoke into the microphone, “Yes, your honor I understand … Not a problem your honor.” The defense was then signaled to proceed.


The first witness called by the defense was Officer Steven Jensen, a nine-year veteran of the Minneapolis Police (MPD). He worked specifically in the Crime Lab, and was assigned at the precinct in November 2015, in his words, “to document items that were thrown at police.” He stated that “almost daily” someone from his unit “was doing video or photography at the precinct.

On the night of the shooting, November 23rd, Jensen was at work from 2 p.m. to midnight documenting the protest, objects thrown at police, and the aftermath of the shooting. Exhibits 251, 252, and 253 were entered into evidence during his testimony. In Exhibit 251, a video that Jensen shot, he explained that he was filming from the 4th Precinct parking lot “on a cherry picker type of equipment.[Note: Exhibits 251, 252, and 253 are yet to be released to the public, as of April 12, 2017]

Police atop cherry pickers regularly looked over the wall of the 4th Precinct with crowd control munitions and cameras as spotlights and surveillance cameras stayed lit and on

While showing the video to the courtroom, the defense was asking questions about the crowd and the nature of the protests. In Exhibit 251, when the cherry picker is raised over the wall of the 4th Precinct, becoming visible to the protesters, you can visibly see and hear them reacting with boisterous voices, yelling, and giving the middle finger to police as they stand around fires in the courtyard area. At one point, a community member can be heard on the bullhorn saying “…Our white allies and our people of color are overwhelming in unity,” as other people gather and converse amongst themselves.

The videos shown to the court were taken by Jensen on and off throughout his shifts. They consisted of many clips put together, back to back, in a chronological order.

‘Cherrypicker’ equipment Jensen and other MPD used to peer over wall towards protestors – view from Morgan Avenue side gate looking into the 4th Precinct parking lot

The exhibit then featured a section of video where Jensen filmed from inside of the 4th Precinct parking lot. Jensen filmed four mobile surveillance camera units running on generators in different locations, police vehicles in the parking lot, and the ground. Jensen explained this sequence: “What I’m documenting is a before scene and if anything happened at night.

Later in the video, at this point filmed from the front of the 4th Precinct behind the police barricades, ten or so people can be seen approaching the barricades at different places and yelling, “They know who they killing out here,” “F*ck you,” and “F*ck the police,” among other things, while a very large group of hundreds form a circle holding hands on Plymouth Avenue, twenty yards behind the yelling.

After nightfall, dozens or so protesters can be heard in the video chanting “No justice, no peace” at the barricade. The defense stopped the video to show Wesley Martin, a victim of Scarsella’s mass shooting, (whose testimony can be found in Part Four), standing behind the barricade holding a sign reading “Pig Pen.” A small object is seen landing near the police, after which someone says “Don’t do that” from behind. Jensen explains that there were milk cartons hurled at law enforcement that night.

Plastic bottles filled with milk and milk cartons were seen in plenty at the 4th Precinct protests to medically deal with the chemical crowd control munitions that the MPD were using, mainly pepper spray (picture from November 18, 2015)

Further in the video, which was often unsteady, Alexander Clark, who frequently attended the 4th Precinct protests and was later mentioned continuously by the defense in their plea for Scarsella to be granted self-defense, can be seen and heard saying to the camera, “You’re just recording a peaceful protest,” to which a cop responds by scoffing, “…a peaceful protest?” Another officer is heard in the background saying, “That person needs to be hospitalized,” in response to Clark’s comments.

In the next video clip the camera focuses once again on Alexander Clark. “I was told that some threats were made to some police officers and they wanted me to record,” Jensen said, explaining the shot. Clark is seen talking loudly about Jamar Clark and that he was murdered by the police in retribution for bringing a police brutality lawsuit against the Minneapolis Police Department. Other people can be seen and heard in the video yelling at police as well.

The second video, Exhibit 252, is chronological. The defense paused several times while showing the video during moments that Wesley Martin was seen but they did not name him or say anything during the brief pauses.

In one clip, a police officer can be heard saying to Alexander Clark, who was standing by the barricades,

Smile! Oh, you don’t want to do that now, you’re gonna be that much of a coward.” – MPD officer yells at protester

Clark can be heard saying something the effect of, the only reason that the police are filming the protesters is to “build a case” against them later, to which the officer responds, “He’s got a point.

View of the 4th Precinct from Plymouth Avenue on the night of November 22nd, 2015

As Exhibit 252 continues, another milk carton is shown being tossed onto the front walkway of the precinct along with another object and Jensen focuses the camera across the entryway showing the spilled milk.

Exhibit 253, Jensen’s video from the night of the Scarsella shooting, November 23rd, is then shown to the courts. It was also filmed by Jensen and is multiple video files shown consecutively. The quality, once again, makes it tough to follow, as the video was very shaky and at times pointing only at the barricades, and the waists and legs of the community members standing behind the barricades.

At one point in the video, Jensen says they were moved inside the precinct for “safety” purposes, so he filmed the protests through window blinds. After moving inside, Jensen filmed a protester as he lobbed multiple bottles of milk towards the roof of the precinct. A man presumed to be police officer can be heard in the background asking, “can we mark them, Sarge?” (“mark them” is a reference to using crowd control weapons and shooting a ‘marker round’ at people). Someone replies, “Nope” Another presumed officer can be heard in the background saying that the person throwing the milk needs to “be arrested” and referring to the protesters gathered outside as “those fuckers.

Defense attorney Heinrich stopped the video around the eight-minute mark as it suddenly changed from inside of the precinct to outside of the precinct. Jensen explains that he moved back outside around the time directly after the Scarsella shooting.

To see the videos released from Morgan Ave and the stationary surveillance camera of the 4th Precinct directly before and directly after the shooting, see Part Three.

Directly after the shooting that took place one and a half blocks northeast of the front entryway to the 4th Precinct, the video shows that some of the crowd maneuvered itself to the barricades and someone is heard yelling,

Why the fuck do I not hear your sirens going off right now?”, to which an officer that sounds very much the testifying Jensen yelled back, “You didn’t want us! You didn’t want us here!

The video from the front entryway stops directly after that officer yelled and resumed from inside the precinct. Nine or so minutes into Exhibit 253, police are heard on their radio dispatch talking about the shooting while the video rolls from inside the precinct looking out of a window through window shades showing groups of people moving around Plymouth Avenue in disarray.

No police officer inside the precinct physically responded to the shooting although it was a block away and one presumed officer can be heard in the background of the video being told “no,” after asking “Should we send EMS?

The video resumed a short time later in front of the precinct and a crowd can be seen running back to the precinct while sirens can be heard. Jensen stood outside the front entry with other officers for several minutes. A man who had just came back from the shooting scene then approaches the precinct and yells at the cops while shaking the gated barricades,

You thinking this shit’s funny? … You sent them white supremacists!” – Protester yells at MPD officers as they record the crowd after the Scarsella shooting

A woman is seen attempting to calm the man down as he continues expressing his anger, saying to the police, “[just] shoot me then, shoot me too.” He continues to the woman, “They set this up,” to which Jensen can then be heard on the video saying, “Damn, he’s crazy,” as the video ends.

The defense finished their direct examination after showing Exhibit 253, video filmed by Jensen from 4 p.m. until around 11 p.m. on November 23, 2015. The videos Jensen took did not include any of the interaction of Scarsella’s group and the protesters, nor of the shooting.

Prosecuting attorney Chris Freeman started the state’s cross-examination of Jensen by showing Exhibit 1, the aerial view of the precinct area. Jensen indicated to the court that when he was outside he usually filmed from the front entryway behind barricades and affirmed when Freeman asked,

Is it fair to say that most of the conduct you heard people saying, zooming in on a couple people, was coming from this little area right here [front entry way of 4th Precinct]?” – Hennepin County attorney Chris Freeman to Officer Jensen

Freeman continued by pointing out that Jensen had not focused his camera on a baby being held by her mother at the barricaded gate, nor a young girl on riding a bike down Plymouth Avenue, nor the prayer circle in the middle of the street, but instead on “two to five people yelling at the cops” because that was his duty.

Jensen admitted that he was sent to film outside of the precinct because of “verbal threats” and when he would walk outside with other officers, people would direct their language to the camera, “they focused on me and the other officers I brought with,” said Jensen

Jensen admitted that the comments from the crowd would intensify when the crowd saw the camera directed at them. Freeman then asks Jensen,

Is it also fair to say that at one point in this video … the 2:20 mark of video two [Exhibit 252] … people are actually leaving, but unfortunately one of the officers calls a person a ‘coward’ and he turns around…

to which Jensen responded, “I do recall.” Freeman was done with the state’s cross-examination of Jensen after this response and the defense declined any re-direct examination. Jensen was then excused from the bench and the court went on lunch break.


Before the judge and attorneys stepped away for lunch, a brief discussion happened in the court on public record about a meeting in the chambers that had happened discussing Exhibits 251, 252, and 253. Judge Caliguiri explained to the court that she allowed videos from the defense that were showing the precinct protests starting at 4:23 p.m. despite objections by the prosecution. She brought up how the State brought forth pictures into evidence that showed the precinct protests starting around 6:30 p.m. (see Scarsella Trial: Part 4) and stated that there is not a set-time surrounding the timing “threshold” of the shooting that prohibits admissible evidence.

Judge Caliguiri also spoke about the defense bringing forth the “issue of threats that were made against a female officer by a person outside of the 4th Precinct,” threats that the person “would shoot the officer,” implying that that person had a gun. Caliguiri stated that the defense said that it would expect Scarsella to testify that he recognizes a person in Exhibit 111 who is visible going north on Morgan Avenue past the alley (around the :45 mark). The judge explained the defense had said that Scarsella saw this person point his hands like guns while Scarsella was being confronted by protesters on Morgan Avenue and that, even if unknown to Scarsella, this was proof that “a member of the protests was actually being an aggressor.

In this case, Judge Caliguiri ruled that recent threats against officers would be relevant, however, the inference that he surely had a weapon was inadmissible as it could not be proved.

The defense argued that that would corroborate that there was, in fact, someone there with a weapon,” however, Judge Caliguiri continues, “there is no offer of proof that Mr. Scarsella saw a gun.

Therefore, Judge Caliguiri ruled that admitting the evidence of the threats with the use of a gun would be “confusing to the jury” and that the prejudicial value would outweigh the probative value, and she allowed just the evidence of the verbal threats and what was known around them. She also allowed the defense to have an upcoming witness, Officer Hanks, identify an individual on a video.

After the lunch break, with the jury still absent, the state brought forth a motion of validity debate towards some statements that Dallas Griffin would be making during his testimony, as he was the next witness from the defense. Heinrich said that Griffin previously stated, among other quotes, “The two white guys were just defending themselves,” and were about to get assaulted and the state sought to not have Griffin’s opinions. The defense explained that Griffin heard that the assault was going to take place. The judge asked the defense to instruct the witness that he could only testify to what he saw, nothing else.


The defense called Dallas Griffin to the stand. Dallas is a nineteen year old Minneapolis resident who lived a block away from the 4th Precinct and directly across from where the shooting occurred.

On the night of the November 23rd, he testified that he had just parked and was sitting in his car in front of his house talking on the phone when he saw “around like six or seven guys, maybe a few more” and “realized that there was a confrontation” amongst them.

They were talking towards each other, not with each other,” Griffin said, and stated that he heard “back off,” and “beat his ass,” during the argument and saw two men ahead of a group.

The other crowd was trying to circle them, like pursuing them [the two men] … they weren’t running but they weren’t being slow,” Griffin explained, and said of the two men getting pursued, “one had a mask and the other didn’t.

Scarsella and Gustavsson walking backwards up Morgan Ave. towards 14th Ave. (video from Exhibit 111)

Griffin’s recollection is as follows: Scarsella and Gustavsson crossed 14th Avenue while coming north on Morgan Ave and there were seven “African American” men who “looked like regular people in the street,” and that one of the men had dreadlocks. Griffin said that “they started getting close to each other and all of a sudden, I heard gunshots.

Griffin continued that the “person with the dreads, he was talking the whole time, I didn’t see him do anything but talk and walk.” At this point in the testimony, the defense counsel presented a photograph of shooting victim Walter Hoskins, who Griffin confirmed was the man he saw with the dreadlocks.

Griffin went on to say that the “Black crowd” said “beat their asses,” identifying the person who spoke those words as Walter Hoskins. Griffin said he heard the white men say “back up” multiple times and he did not see anything happen to Gustavsson, who was one of the two white men (the one without the mask).

Shortly after the incident, in late 2015, Griffin gave a statement to lead investigator Sgt. O’Rourke (who testified twice in the trial, documented in Part 3 and Part 5). In this statement, Griffin claimed that he witnessed Hoskins grab Gustavsson, but denied this during trial.

What’s on that paper is not what I remember,” Griffin claimed, “I never said that he grabbed them … I remember the shots getting fired and the guy in the dreads getting shot.

Griffin stated that other protesters were close to the gun when it was fired. “It happened really fast,” he said. He heard the shots immediately after realizing that the group had approached. His reaction was to duck after the first shot was fired but he quickly rose his head to witness the rest of the shooting and the aftermath. Griffin stated that after the white men fled, he exited his vehicle to assist the wounded. He helped Walter and Draper get into the car that would take them to the hospital.

When Griffin described Walter as being a large person among several “average” sized people and expressed that eventually the white men “were gonna have to protect themselves,” the prosecution objected. He clarified that they were not walking “in a normal manner,” as they had been walking backwards and “had to keep stopping,” and he noticed that Gustavsson carried what looked like “a box.

Griffin was asked what he did on the day of the 23rd, to which he said he had been at home most of the day and heard the loudspeaker at the protest. He described what he heard as “screaming and the noise of the numerous amounts of people.” He left his residence at around four or five in the afternoon and returned right when the incident was taking place. Griffin stated that he had not been to the protest until after the incident.

The defense then showed Exhibit 251 and asked Griffin if he recognized anyone. Griffin was able to identify both Wesley (from a paused frame of him holding a sign that said “Pig Pen”) and Draper (smoking a cigarette and on his phone), as gunshot victims. Direct examination by the defense ended at this point.

On cross-examination, Griffin, who was called by the defense but was on the state’s list of potential witnesses, confirmed that his aunt, uncle, and father alerted him that an investigator from Hennepin County attempted to serve him with a subpoena to testify in the trial but stated that he didn’t know how to get in touch with the investigator.

Hennepin County Assistant Attorney Judith Hawley questioned why Griffin had missed several meetings that were set up by the county attorney’s office and seemed to allude to the fact that it had not been able to successfully serve him his subpoena. Griffin merely shrugged off the questioning and testified that at the time of the incident, he was living with his mother and aunt.

Hawley confirmed that he told O’Rourke that two white people were shooting on the night of the 23rd and “first they shot low and then they shot high.” He said he heard shots ricocheting off the ground and then hitting people. After the round of shots both men fled.

Griffin stated that if it had not been for a neighborhood friend taking the victims to the hospital, he would have offered his own vehicle. He testified that he did not know what happened before the groups confronted each other. While looking at a photograph shown on the big screen, Griffin indicated the location of his residence, where his car was parked and where he helped a gunshot victim in the grass on 14th and Morgan.

While looking at a picture of 14th and Morgan, Griffin stated that the truck pulled up by the marker casings and picked up Walter and that Draper emerged from behind a trash bin on the corner that he took refuge behind after being shot.

Yellow marker casings show where discharged bullet casings were found. Griffin was parked in the car on the left when the shooting occurred.

Griffin saw victims Walter Hoskins and Draper Larkins directly after the shooting and he said that Cameron Clark got shot at 14th and ran by the van close to the Mercury Cougar in which the Crime Lab found a bullet of Scarsella’s. Griffin also stated that he witnessed Teven get shot in the abdomen.

Once Griffin helped get Hoskins and Larkins into the car that brought them to North Memorial Hospital, he said he stood in the street until his aunt came out of the house and then spoke to the police afterwards. The prosecution asked if Hoskins fell right away, to which he responded, “I assumed he fell right after being shot.

During the defense’s re-direct, Griffin reiterated that he heard the shots ricocheting off the ground. He stated, “When it all happened, I was so shook that I didn’t see an actual bullet hit anybody.” He said that Hoskins was shot in the street while he was parallel with the tree that was about fifteen feet north of the corner. Griffin said that the group that was on the sidewalk was “gonna try to circle” the two white men, and that Walter had been the “only person that moved a little bit away from the crowd.” Griffin was then excused from the stand.


The next witness to take the stand was Officer Lora Hanks, an eight year veteran of the Minneapolis Police Department. Hanks gave emotional testimony about the troubles she faced as an officer working perimeter security at the 4th Precinct during the protests.

Hanks was assigned to assist with perimeter security for twelve days of the eighteen-day long 4th Precinct occupation. She explained how the officers shifted in and out from the front perimeter. Hanks said the work “got taxing mentally,” and the officers would rotate every fifteen to twenty minutes or so because “there was a lot of people who were anti-police.

Hanks described her perspective of the protests at the precinct as “chaotic,” saying that a large assortment of groups were spread out over the area close to the precinct continually expressing their anger. Hanks stated that “kids” were “unsupervised, screaming, yelling obscenities at the police.”

Hanks spoke about an incident that occurred during her evening shift in which she “asked to be pulled” after being verbally threatened by a protester. Defense Attorney Laura Heinrich played and paused a video from Morgan Ave. that showed the protester that Hanks spoke of and Heinrich then gave Hanks a full paper size picture of a screen shot from the video and asked Hanks “do you know who this individual is?” Hanks replied “Yes, I do … Alexander Clark.

When asked to elaborate about the situation, Hanks said “he was very angry, he was very intense, making eye contact with me and I can only describe it as hate-filled look on his face.” Hennepin County Attorney Chris Freeman immediately objected on cause of speculation but was overruled.

Immediately after the overruling, Hanks continued speaking about Alexander saying, “We were making eye contact and he said…,” when she was again promptly interrupted by Freeman objecting and asking Judge Caliguiri if they could approach the bench.

After a short discussion at the bench, the judge excused the jury to the jury room for a few moments. During this time, Hanks asked to speak and said to the judge, “He told me one thing and she told me another thing” while pointing to both the prosecutor’s and the defense’s tables. Judge Caliguiri said to Hanks, “Don’t worry, you’re fine,” to which Hanks replied that it’s “kind of emotional.” The judge instructed Heinrich to lead her through the testimony.

When the jury came back in, Heinrich started to ask about what drew Hanks attention to Clark and then played the video again, pausing it around the forty second mark and had Hanks point out Clark on the large screen behind the testimonial stand. After Heinrich took over three minutes attempting to change the settings on the video to brighten it for the jury, she concluded that she had no further questions.

The cross-examination was one question, Freeman asked if it “was fair to say that being a police officer” on assignment at the 4th precinct “sucked,” to which Hanks responded affirmatively. Freeman then responded, “I have no further questions, your Honor.” Hanks was excused and the court took its afternoon break.


We will continue in our Scarsella Trial report-back Part Seven with the testimonies of co-defendant Nate Gustavsson and Allen Scarsella himself.

Trial proceedings in the State of MN vs. Scarsella took place on the sixteenth floor of the Hennepin County Government Center and were presided by Judge Hilary Lindell Caligiuri. Representing Allen Scarsella in his plea of self-defense were public defenders Laura Heinrich and Peter Martin, while Assistant Hennepin County Attorney’s Judith Hawley and Chris Freeman prosecuted the case. Fourteen people sat in the jury box: twelve jurors and two alternates, who were unknown to the court and even themselves until the judge gave the jury instructions after closing statements.

Allen Scarsella and his group of co-defendants, Nathan Gustavsson (PDF) (22 y/o – Hermantown, MN), Joseph Backman (PDF) (28 y/o – Eagan, MN), and Daniel Macey (PDF) (who got his charges dropped by Judge Caliguiri in late February), are all part of the growing movement of white nationalists clustered around normalized bigoted ideology in chat forums on the internet. The trial hinged on documenting the perpetrators intolerant subculture as a motive for the armed attack, namely speaking and posting about white-supremacist ideals through memes and terminology not recognized by the larger majority of the populace.

Scarsella was found guilty of 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.


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Read Part One: Jury Selection, Unicorn Riot Subpoenaed, Opening Statements | Part Two: “In hindsight it was very stupid” | Part Three: Jury Sees Videos Around Mass Shooting | Part Four: Shooting Victims Testify | Part Five: Cell Phone Extraction Shows Scarsella’s Hardened Racism, by clicking on the images below:

 


To see Unicorn Riot’s past coverage in relation to this shooting, see below:

 

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