Minnesota police officer Brett Levin attempted to justify racist texts exchanged with a high school friend responsible for shooting five Black Lives Matter protesters. On Tuesday (Jan. 24), the Burnsville cop testified that former classmate Allen “Lance” Scarsella sent him texts that “were negative about black people” on a regular basis, the Star Tribune reports.
Levin proceeded to take a page out of Donald Trump’s book when he dismissed the severity of the messages. “How we were talking was more along the lines of locker room talk,” he said. According to the site, he was not asked to describe the content of their conversations.
Prosecutors assert that Scarsella’s racist beliefs were the driving force behind his decision to shoot five black men at a protest on Nov. 23, 2015, which was held in honor of Jamar Clark, an unarmed black man killed by police. Accompanied by three others, Scarsella concealed his identity with a mask before entering the event. A fight allegedly broke out after protesters asked the men to remove their disguises.
Levin was on patrol for the Mankato Police Department, which he has since left, when Scarsella called to report the shooting during the early morning hours of Nov. 24, 2015. “I believe [Scarsella] told me … that one of his friends pushed him down as the protesters caught up to them,” he said. “One of the protesters pulled out a knife and that’s when Lance pulled out his gun and shot.”
All shooting victims survived. Scarsella currently faces felony assault and riot charges in the pending case, while his companions Nathan Gustavsson, Daniel Macey and Joseph Backman have been charged with second-degree riot and aiding an offender. Read more here.