Less than two weeks ago, four gunmen opened fire on a group of “Black Lives Matter” protesters in North Minneapolis, less than one block away from the police precinct where Jamar Clark was fatally shot by an officer. Five people were injured in the shooting.
Police arrested four suspects, all young men ranging in age from 21 to 27. Protesters believed the men were white supremacists who had shown up at the protest in the evenings leading up to the shooting, but another side of the story reveals a different perspective.
Hate Crime or Self-Defense?
Was this shooting a hate crime committed by white supremacists, or an act of self-defense? So far, there is not enough information to tell.
The following details are known about the shooting:
- The four men, who were wearing masks, were positioned on a sidewalk across from the protesters and were filming video.
- At some point, the men were approached by a large group of protesters.
- The protesters claim that they tried to “escort” them from the area.
- Unconfirmed reports claim that the suspects were chased into an alley, where one or two of them pulled guns and fired into the crowd or pursuers.
Attorney Joe Tamburino of Minneapolis criminal defense firm Caplan & Tamburino Law Firm, P.A. weighed in on this case, saying that if these facts are true, it may not be farfetched for the four suspects to claim self-defense. He notes first that the men were not doing anything illegal by filming on a public street, regardless of their motivations. He also points out that the protestors did not have a legal right to ask them to remove their masks or to leave the scene. A prosecutor, therefore, would have the burden of proving that the suspects were not acting in self-defense.
In order to prove a claim of self-defense, it must be shown:
- That there was an attempt to retreat
- The person did retreat, but used “reasonable force” when it became apparent that they would be harmed by those pursuing them
More information is needed about the case, including the motivations of the young men, their allegedly prejudiced or racist views, and more on their backgrounds. Only time will tell whether this defense will fly in court.