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Anthony Sawina charged with shooting at five Somalis during Ramadan

Anthony Sawina was carrying a gun without a permit when he opened fire on a group of Muslim men on their way to prayer, according to cops.

Anthony Sawina was carrying a gun without a permit when he opened fire on a group of Muslim men on their way to prayer, according to cops.

Near the end of June, a widely shared Facebook post described a possible hate crime that took place near the U of M’s athletics complex.

Five Somali men dressed in traditional Muslim robes were on their way to a Ramadan dinner when an armed white man confronted with them insults, pulled out a gun, and began shooting. Two were wounded. 

None of the victims were armed. None fought back. According to initial witnesses, they only argued with the gunman when he started making derogatory comments about their robes looking like dresses.

The Council of American-Islamic Relations asked Minneapolis and the FBI to investigate whether the confrontation was motivated by Islamophobia. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minnesota) wrote to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch calling for the Justice Department to do the same.

After about a month’s investigation, the Hennepin County Attorney’s office arrested Anthony Sawina, a 26-year-old from Lauderdale, and charged him for basically being a trigger-happy bigot.

According to police, the Somalis had just finished playing basketball near the U when they changed into qamis, a prayer robe, and walked back to their car. Along the way, they encountered a group of people, including Sawina, emerging from a Dinkytown bar.

One guy in that group shouted out, “What’s that dress you’re wearing?” He then offered to shake hands, but the Somali men refused. They climbed into their car as another man shouted after them, “Fuck Muslims.”

One of the Somali men seated in the car piped up. "Why would you say fuck Muslims?" he asked.

That’s when Sawina and a friend approached the car. According to the criminal complaint, Sawina became aggressively angry, saying, "What if someone said it?" before drawing a handgun.

Two of the Somali men scrambled out of the car and ran as Sawina began shooting through the windshield, according to the complaint. Two of the men stuck in the car were hit in their legs. Sawina and his friend ran away.

The only Somali left without wounds drove his friends to the hospital. Cops later found surveillance footage that corroborated the victims’ story. They used credit card receipts to identify the group from the bar. Sawina’s friend also ratted him out, according to the complaint.

Sawina is currently in jail. He has two prior convictions for carrying a pistol in public without a permit to carry.

On Friday, he was charged with five counts of second degree felony assault with a deadly weapon. If convicted on all counts, he’ll spend 15-35 years in jail, depending on how his judge feels.