Sawina sentenced to 39 years for shooting Somalis; yells at judge as leaving

Monday, June 12, 2017

A Hennepin County District Court judge sentenced Anthony Sawina to 39 years in prison for shooting into a car filled with Somali men and wounding two of them, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced Monday.

Sawina, who just minutes before had contritely apologized to the Somali and Muslim communities and to the men he wounded, lashed out as deputies moved in to take him away.

“You people are the real criminals,” Sawina shouted. “People are killing each other and they get less time. This is injustice at its finest and you know it.”

A month ago, a Hennepin County District Court jury rejected Sawina’s self-defense argument and found him guilty of nine counts of assault and attempted first and second degree murder. Monday, assistant Hennepin County Attorney Patrick Lofton argued to Hennepin County District Court Judge Kathryn Quaintance for a prison sentence of 306 months by running some of the sentences consecutively. Sawina’s attorney argued for 36 months for each of the two bullets that struck the victims for a total of 72 months.

Lofton argued that Sawina, 26, of Lauderdale, approached the five men with his own group who had just left a Dinkytown bar around 2:30 a.m. June 29. He said “f**k Muslims,” and even if he didn’t, he knew the inflammatory words had been uttered.

“He was looking for trouble,” Lofton said of Sawina.

His attorney argued that the prosecution had turned this case into a religious or racially motivated crime, but, in fact,  it was an escalating situation and Sawina acted in self-defense and none of the decisions he made were meant to hurt or kill anybody.

Judge Quaintance, however, delineated everything the jury had to have accepted as fact in order to find Sawina guilty on all nine counts. She pointed out that Sawina and his friends were intoxicated when they confronted the men, who had been playing basketball and were headed to a mosque.

She said Sawina uttered the words. The Somali men got into their car near 14th Avenue and Sixth Street Southeast but one of them asked Sawina why he would say something like that and how would he feel if someone said that about Jesus? A member of Sawina’s group tried to smooth over the situation, but Sawina would have none of it and instead said, “What if I did say it? What are you going to do about it,” Judge Quaintance said and also noted that he lied about having a permit to carry but added that he would kill them all.

He pulled out a handgun and as two of the men got out of the car and started running, Sawina fired shots through an open back door, wounding two of the men in the leg and just missing the head of the driver. Sawina then ran, hid out and looked on-line for information on DNA and guns, she said.

She talked about his convictions for driving without a license, fifth-degree assault and carrying a pistol without a permit. Judge Quaintance also mentioned that his home, when it was searched, contained a non-working hand grenade, several guns and hundreds of rounds of ammunition, making it a “veritable arsenal.”

His act was racially motivated and by firing on the street during bar closing time, he endangered the lives of others besides his victim, she said.

“Consequently, this sentence does not unduly exaggerate the criminality of his conduct,” Judge Quaintance said as she sentenced him to 468 months.

He was given credit for 327 days already served in jail.