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4th Precinct shooting suspects in court: 'We're not racists'

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Four men charged with shooting several people outside the Fourth Precinct in Minneapolis last week appeared in Hennepin County District Court Tuesday, as attorneys for two of them claimed their clients are "not racists" even though the attack was believed to have been racially motivated.

Five protesters were wounded by gunfire in the shooting, which occurred Nov. 23 near 14th Avenue and Morgan Avenue N., about one block from the police station.

Protesters have been camping outside the precinct ever since the fatal shooting of 24-year-old Jamar Clark by a police officer on Nov. 15. They claim Clark was handcuffed when he was shot, but police officers deny that claim.

According to the criminal complaints, the four suspects went there to disrupt the demonstration for racial reasons; they've been described by protesters as white supremacists.

The shooting occurred after a group of protesters challenged the men and tried to get them to leave, the complaint said.

Allen Scarsella, 23, is accused of shooting the five men and faces the most serious charges – five counts of second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon.

Attorneys for two of the defendants, Daniel Macey, 26, of Pine City, and Joseph Backman, 27, of Eagan, said at Tuesday's court hearing their clients aren't white supremacists, the Star Tribune reports.

Macey is Asian, the newspaper notes. The other three defendants are white, and all of the shooting victims are black.

An attorney for Nathan Gustavsson, 21, of Hermantown, said there's no proof his client had a gun, the Associated Press reports.

The men have not been charged with hate crimes. Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said prosecutors considered hate crime charges, but the charges announced Monday carry heftier sentences.

“This is the most serious crime we can charge under the circumstances,” Freeman said.

All four remain jailed. Bail was set at $500,000 for Scarsella and $250,000 each for the other defendants, according to the Associated Press. They are due back in court in January.

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