Jury finds Sawina guilty nine times for shooting Somali men

Thursday, May 11, 2017

A Hennepin County District Court jury found Anthony John Sawina guilty of all nine counts in the shooting of five Somali men, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced Thursday.

Sawina, 26, of Lauderdale, was convicted of two counts of attempted first-degree murder, two counts of attempted second-degree murder and five counts of second-degree assault, for a shooting that occurred in Dinkytown on June 29, 2016 at approximately 2:30 a.m. The trial lasted six days and the jury deliberated for about two days before rejecting Sawina’s claims that he acted in self-defense.

“We are very pleased with the verdict,” Freeman said. “His conduct was reprehensible and shocking.”

Sentencing is scheduled for June 12. Freeman said they are still discussing how much time to ask for but said “it will be north of 20 years.”

According to the criminal complaint, police officers responded to a shooting near the intersection of 14th Avenue Southeast and Sixth Street Southeast. They located .380 caliber discharged cartridge casings at the scene.

Other officers responded to a call from Hennepin County Medical Center and met with five Somali men who were the victims of the shooting. The men said that they had been in the area playing basketball. When they were done, they encountered a group of people leaving a nearby bar.

The complaint states that one of the people in the group asked one of the Somali men “what’s that dress you’re wearing?” The Somali man was wearing traditional clothing for the month of Ramadan. The person from the group then tried to shake his hand, but he refused.

As the five Somali men were attempting to leave in their car, someone from the group said “F**k Muslims.” There was some exchange between the group from the bar and the Somali men. Then Sawina and another man approached the car and said “What if someone did say that?” Sawina drew a semi-automatic gun and pointed it at the car.

In testimony during the trial, several of the victims testified that they heard Sawina say, “I’m going to kill you all.” Two of the Somali men got out of the car and ran away. The other three Somali men were still in the car when Sawina began shooting through the open car door. One bullet struck the windshield and at least one other bullet hit the lower legs of the two men in the back seat.

“The evidence showed he escalated a situation that already was volatile,” said assistant Hennepin County Attorney Patrick Lofton who tried the case. “It was important that every witness painted a full version of what happened,” adding that it helped that Sawina testified and the jury could see “how unreasonable his version was.”

Video surveillance of the area where the shooting occurred corroborated the victims’ account that they were playing basketball. Using receipts from local bars and surveillance video, the officers identified one of the men in the group who when interviewed gave Sawina’s name to the police.

Sawina was arrested on July 21 and found with a .380 caliber handgun on him.