Craig Lassig / Reuters

Four charged in shooting of Minnesota protesters

Men charged after shots were fired at demonstrators in Minneapolis protesting the killing of a black man by police

Prosecutors in Minnesota have announced charges against four men who were arrested last week after shots were fired at demonstrators protesting the killing of a black man by police.

Authorities charged Allen Lawrence Scarsella, 23, with one count of riot while armed with a dangerous weapon and five counts of assault with a dangerous weapon. A criminal complaint says Scarsella fired the shots that injured five protesters on Nov. 23.

Twenty-seven-year-old Joseph Martin Backman; 21-year-old Nathan Wayne Gustavsson; and 26-year-old Daniel Thomas Macey each face a riot charge.

The shooting happened near a Minneapolis police precinct, where dozens of protesters have been camped since the Nov. 15 fatal shooting of Jamar Clark. No one had life-threatening wounds.

Police say Clark was fatally shot after struggling with officers. But some people who said they saw the shooting allege the 24-year-old was handcuffed.

The shootings of the demonstrators spurred a massive march last week, with a racially mixed crowd marching to City Hall. Protesters have also been conducting a sit-in since Clark was shot, calling for the release of video documenting his death.

Meanwhile, court documents show one of two Minneapolis police officers being investigated in Clark's fatal shooting has been accused in a lawsuit of using excessive force during an arrest four years ago.

Court documents show the lawsuit against Dustin Schwarze was filed about 10 days before the shooting death of Clark. The case was moved last Tuesday from Hennepin County District Court to U.S. District Court.

The lawsuit alleges that Schwarze, who was working as a Richfield police officer, used a stun gun on a passenger in a vehicle that was pulled over by officers in Richfield in December 2011. It also accuses Schwarze of threatening to beat that passenger and another if they exited the vehicle.

Two other officers and the city of Richfield are named in the lawsuit.

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is investigating whether Schwarze and officer Mark Ringgenberg violated state laws in Clark's death.

Al Jazeera and The Associated Press

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