Charges: Somali men shot near U of M after anti-Muslim abuse


Two Somalis observing Ramadan in Minneapolis were shot after they objected when a group of men confronted them and one said "f--- Muslims."

Anthony John Sawina, 26, of Lauderdale, Minnesota, is accused of firing several shots into a car containing five Somali men, injuring two and sending two of the others fleeing for safety.

According to a criminal complaint:

Sawina left a bar with friends at 2:30 a.m. on June 29, when they addressed five Somali men who had just finished playing basketball near 14th Ave. SE and 6th St. SE in Dinkytown, not far from the University of Minnesota.

The Somali men were wearing traditional clothing as they were observing the month of Ramadan, and one of the men in Sawina's group said to them: "What's that dress you're wearing?"

They then tried to shake one of the Somali men's hands, but when he refused and tried to leave in one of their friend's vehicles, another man was heard saying: "F--- Muslims."

When one of the Somalis questioned them, saying: "Why would you say f--- Muslims?", Sawina and another man are alleged to have approached the vehicle, with Sawina saying: "What if someone said it? What if?" before drawing a semi-automatic handgun.

He pointed at the windshield of the vehicle, prompting two of the Somali men to get out and run, before firing through the windshield.

He then moved around to the passenger side and began firing again. The two victims were struck in the lower legs, while bullet holes were later found in the back seat.

Receipts lead to arrest

Police used surveillance footage to corroborate the victims' version of events. Investigators also used the footage, along with receipts from local bars, to identify Sawina's group, and after speaking to one of the people he was with, identified Sawina, the complaint says.

They tracked down Sawina to his home in Lauderdale, where he was arrested on Thursday and found in possession with a .380 caliber handgun. He also has two previous convictions for carrying a pistol without a permit.

Sawina has been charged with five counts of second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon and is in custody with bail set at $750,000, requested because he "presents a danger to public safety," the complaint says.

When it was first reported, police said they were investigating a "bias motivated" incident, with the Somali men on their way to a mosque at the time to perform nightly Ramadan prayers.

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