A Minnesota police officer admitted to exchanging “racially charged” text messages with a high school classmate now standing trial for shooting five Black Lives Matter protesters.
Brett Levin, a Burnsville police officer, testified Tuesday that he had stayed in contact with Allen “Lance” Scarsella, who he admitted frequently sent texts that were “negative about black people,” reported the Star Tribune.
The officer admitted he replied with similar texts, but he attempted to justify the discussion.
“How we were talking was more along the lines of locker room talk,” Levin testified, echoing Donald Trump’s defense of his recorded boasts about getting away apparent sexual assaults.
Levin, who was not asked by prosecutors to describe the content of those conversations, said Scarsella called him the night of the shootings.
The officer testified that he was on patrol for the Mankato Police Department, which he has since left, during the early morning hours of Nov. 24, 2015, when Scarsella called to report the shooting.
Scarsella told him he and three other men, all wearing masks to conceal their identities, had gone to an ongoing protest of the fatal police shooting of 24-year-old Jamar Clark.
Levin testified that Scarsella told him a fight broke out when demonstrators asked them to remove their masks.
“I believe he told me … that one of his friends pushed him down as the protesters caught up to them,” Levin testified. “One of the protesters pulled out a knife and that’s when Lance pulled out his gun and shot.”
All five shooting victims survived.
Prosecutors have said Scarsella’s white supremacist beliefs led him to confront and open fire on the Black Lives Matter demonstrators.
His social media profile shows an interest in the Confederacy and right-wing militia beliefs, and he told police he was a “sovereign citizen” when he was arrested.
A video that appears to show two of the masked suspects driving to the protest, threatening violence against “dindus” — a racial slur derived from “dindu nuffin” that’s commonly used on 4Chan’s /pol/ forum and other racist message boards.
Email evidence also shows the men plotting a confrontation with black activists days before the shootings.
The 24-year-old Scarsella faces felony assault and riot charges in connection with the shootings, which his attorneys claim was self-defense in a trial before an all-white jury.
Three other men — Nathan Gustavsson, 22, Daniel Macey, 27, and Joseph Backman, 28, of Eagan — have been charged with second-degree riot and aiding an offender.