A Minnesota prosecutor announced second-degree assault and riot charges against the four suspects involved in a shooting at a Minneapolis protest. (Video: Reuters)

Authorities in Minnesota said four men had been charged after the shooting last week injured five people near a protest against the death of an unarmed black man shot and killed by Minneapolis police officers.

The announcement came hours after local leaders called on protesters in Minneapolis to stop gathering at the police building not far from where the shooting occurred.

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced the charges against the four men on Monday, saying that one man — Lawrence Scarsella, 23 — had been charged with five counts of second-degree assault and one count of second-degree riot for shooting at the demonstrators.

According to the criminal complaint filed in Hennepin County, Scarsella and three other men said in jail phone conversations they were present when the shooting occurred. The complaint states that Scarsella “inflicted substantial bodily harm, while using a firearm” in the shooting, which authorities say was not captured on video. The assault charges against Scarsella carry up to 10 years and fines of up to $20,000.

The other three men — identified by police as Joseph Martin Backman, 27; Nathan Wayne Gustavsson, 21; and Daniel Thomas Macey, 26 — were all charged with one count of second-degree riot, Freeman said. The criminal complaints filed for these three men state that they were armed with firearms and disturbed the peace. They all face up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

“These four individuals violently impacted people’s rights to demonstrate,” Freeman said at a news conference. “We will prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law.”

The four men are expected to appear in court Tuesday, and Freeman said his office had asked for $500,000 bail for Scarsella and $250,000 for the other three men.

Freeman also said the investigation into the shooting is ongoing.

The shooting occurred last week about a block away from a police building that has become the epicenter of protests over the death of Jamar Clark, a 24-year-old man fatally shot by police Nov. 15. Five people who were protesting as part of a Black Lives Matter demonstration were wounded in the shooting, suffering wounds that were not life-threatening.

Large groups of demonstrators have been a regular presence at the Minneapolis Police Department’s 4th Precinct since Clark was shot, which occurred amid a period of heightened racial discord and increased scrutiny about how police officers use deadly force.

At Jamar Clark’s funeral, family wrestles with greater purpose of his life and death

Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges called Monday morning for demonstrators to stop camping out near the 4th Precinct, a plea echoed by Rep. Keith Ellison (D), who represents the area in Congress, and the Minneapolis Urban League.

The Minneapolis chapter of the NAACP rejected this request, saying that protesters would not move:

Protesters said that the demonstrators were shot late on Nov. 23 after a group of people were seen recording the protests and, when a group followed them down Morgan Avenue, a scuffle broke out and multiple gunshots were fired. Demonstrators also say they had been told to be on the lookout for white supremacists wearing masks or camouflage clothing and said the people filming the protests matched those descriptions.

Gunshots were also fired the following night near the protests, according to police, and no injuries were reported. Still, demonstrators said after the initial gunfire that they would not be intimidated, vowing to return to the streets and continue protesting the shooting.

The shooting occurred less than a day before national attention turned to Chicago after a police officer there was charged with murder for shooting a 17-year-old last year. Those charges were quickly followed by the release of video footage showing that shooting, which prompted intense but peaceful demonstrations in Chicago.

[Protesters shut down Chicago’s ‘Magnificent Mile’ in demonstrations over police slaying of Laquan McDonald]

Authorities in Minnesota say Clark was the suspect in an assault and that he interfered when paramedics tried to treat the assault victim.

“At some point during an altercation that ensued between the officers and the individual, an officer discharged his weapon, striking the individual,” the Minnesota Department of Public Safety said in a statement.

The officers involved were later identified as Mark Ringgenberg and Dustin Schwarze, both of whom are on leave due to the investigation, though investigators have not said which officer fired the fatal gunshot.

The state’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is investigating the shooting, while the FBI has announced that it will conduct its own investigation. The U.S. attorney’s office in Minnesota and Justice Department prosecutors also say they will review evidence to see whether any civil rights statutes were violated.

Some witnesses have said that Clark was handcuffed when he was shot, while police initially said that did not appear to be the case. Drew Evans, superintendent of the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, has said that authorities were working to determine whether Clark was handcuffed when he died.

While demonstrators have called on police to release video footage of the shooting, Evans said that police have multiple videos related to the encounter but no complete video documenting the shooting.

This post has been updated. 


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