Allen Scarsella's shooting of five Black Lives Matter protesters in fall 2015 ruined his parents' lives in Minnesota.
Not long after Scarsella was arrested and charged, his parents, then residents of the suburb of Lakeville, felt leering glares and distant treatment from neighbors and church members. The Scarsellas couldn't take it, and eventually packed up and moved back to Texas, where they're from originally.
That anecdote was included in a letter Scarsella's father (also named Allen Scarsella) wrote to Judge Hilary Caliguri prior to the protest shooter's sentencing. In February, a jury found Scarsella guilty on all 11 counts of felony assault and one count of riot.
Scarsella's father sought a lenient sentence from the court, citing his son's 17 months already served in jail, and at one point asked for Judge Caliguri to "consider probation," promising that his parents and extended family in Texas would "provide support and structure."
For his part, Allen Scarsella told the judge Wednesday that the shooting "weighs heavily on my heart every day," the Star Tribune reports.
Those pleas were not enough to convince Caliguri, who sentenced Scarsella to upward of 15 years, a punishment that could see Scarsella, 25, out on probation by early 2026.
Granting probation for time served would "seriously understate" the nature of Scarsella's crimes, Caliguri said, alluding to a litany of prior communications and statements Scarsella made that showed his racism toward black people.
“You brought a loaded gun into a gathering of people of whom you expressed such contempt," Caliguri said. "You were not there as a person of good will. And it played out as anyone would have predicted."
In his letter, Scarsella's father said his son was not raised in a racist home, and noted the shooter is one-quarter Mexican himself. Instead, he suggested years of childhood bullying had driven his son, a former Boy Scout, to wind up in "the wrong place at the wrong time."
Scarsella's father's letter, submitted to the court on March 24, and tweeted yesterday by Twin Cities blogger Tony Webster, is reprinted in full below.
First, I wanted to explain that just because we have not attended many of Lance’s court hearings is not because we do not love him. We both love him very much. I have been in your courtroom two times on my own and one time with my wife Regina. Thank you for allowing the deputies to escort my wife and me to our vehicle the last time we were there in July. It was a very stressful situation for us as we were confronted by several individuals when we were walking to our car. They had some mean and hateful things they yelled at us. My wife was so scared she was shaking.
I am fortunate that my company is flexible on where I work from and they allowed me and my family to move back to Texas where most of my extended family lives. Both of my parents are in their eighties. Moving back to Texas to be with our family was important to us. Many of the people we knew in Lakeville from schools and church and scouts seemed to have shunned us as a family. You know that things are different when folks used to wave and say hello in church or shopping at stores would now simply turn and walk away. Moving back to Texas has allowed us once again to become somewhat normal and anonymous.
Second, I wanted to provide you with information about our son as you are determining his appropriate sentence.
My son has never been in any real trouble with the criminal justice system. I hope you will consider Lance’s background, education and that he is a good person with a big heart. He has a good education from the University of St. Thomas where he graduated with a degree in business management and had a job working with a marketing firm. He was earning a living with this entry level job making $40,000 and was even starting to pay back his college student loans.
My father was in the Air Force for 24 years, and we were raised without any prejudice or even considered the color of a person’s skin. We were all just people and all equal. My mother was born and raised in Mexico until she met my father. When they met they could not even speak each other’s language, at all. I am ½ Hispanic and Lance is ¼ Hispanic. He speaks and understands Spanish as he also took 4 years of Spanish in high school and placed out of Spanish Language class requirements at the University of St. Thomas.
We never used negative terms about anyone and taught our children that people are just people, we never made references to a person’s color, ethnicity or heritage. He never hated anyone or picked on anyone while he was in school, in scouts, in church or played sports. Lance was picked on from elementary school all the way through his high school years for being overweight, a sort of pudgy and fat kid. He also had very bad teeth and this bullying and being picked on went on for years and years. He was self-conscious and started working out every day including joining a number of sports teams. Lance was picked on for so many years that I believe the social media and texts with his friends were an attempt to fit in.
I know he is remorseful about what happened. I used to visit him in jail 2 times a week from December 2015 every week until when we moved in September 2016. In those twice weekly visits for 10 months, I spoke to him many times about how he felt about what happened, and he expressed how terrible he felt for the individuals and families for what they have been through. I would have never condoned him visiting the area. Lance put himself in the wrong place at the wrong time with a horrible outcome that impacted many people’s lives.
Lance has served some 17 months in jail, with all this time being in protective custody, alone. I worry about him in this type of environment. From what I have read, it’s not a healthy place to be over the long term. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to be in Lance’s shoes. We also worry about his safety in prison, what others may do to him and if he will be hurt or even worse.
I would like nothing more than for Lance to be able to lead a normal and productive life as a regular good citizen and member of any community and church in which he lives. I hope that at some point after he is released, we can transfer him to Texas to give him a chance to give back to the community and start a new life. I believe with all my heart that with Lance’s great support network of family, he will get much love and assistance that it will go a long way in helping him adjust and to lead as normal a life once he is released. As of now all his extended family lives in Texas except for his two brothers – one is in college elsewhere and the other is in the Navy, currently deployed abroad.
In September of 2016 I flew up to Minneapolis and visited Lance with his two brothers. Lance was overjoyed with happiness and his smile was heartwarming. It has been almost a year since I have seen a smile like that on Lance’s face. The joy in his voice was noticeable, he was so happy to see us and proud of his brother. Seeing Lance and his 3 brothers together, all very close and all 3 Eagle Scouts together, made me tear up. In fact, I am quite choked up at this moment as I write this letter to you, as I think back on how they greeted one another and interacted together during this short visit. This was the last time Lance was able to see me and his brothers, September 2016.
Hopefully you can now see more of what kind of a person Lance is from this letter. I am sure others will also provide you with more details to assist you in determining Lance’s ultimate sentence. We are really hoping that you consider probation. We will help provide support and structure.
I am deeply sorry for what has happened and apologize to everyone involved including the court and those that were hurt or negatively impacted by the events that unfolded that night. If I could apologize to every family member impacted by this event in person, face to face, I would, with my deepest sympathies and apologies. We as a nation we have a long way to go to heal, always be open minded and tolerant of others and forgive each other.
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