Man faces up to 7 years for shooting Muslims on their way to prayer

26-year-old Anthony Sawina pulled out a gun after one of the victims questioned why his friend had said 'F*** Muslims'

 

Rachael Revesz
New York
@RachaelRevesz
Monday 25 July 2016 17:43
comments
The aggressor had just come out of a bar with his friends when he saw the victims
The aggressor had just come out of a bar with his friends when he saw the victims

A man who shot at a group of Muslims on their way to a mosque has been charged.

26-year-old Anthony Sawina faces five counts of second degree assault.

On 29 June he and his friends came out of a bar in Dinkytown, Minneapolis, around 2.30am and saw a group of Muslim men walking to their car after playing a game of basketball.

At least one of the Somali men was wearing a traditional Muslim prayer robe and they were on their way to a mosque for morning prayers.

One man in the group from the bar asked the Somali man: “What’s that dress you’re wearing?” and the question was ignored, according to a criminal complaint.

The same man from the bar allegedly said: "F*** Muslims".

When one of the Muslim men asked him why he had said that, Mr Sawina reportedly shouted: “What if someone said it? What if?” and allegedly pulled out a handgun.

He began firing through the windshield of the car, in which all five Muslim men were now seated. Two of the men inside the car ran away.

Mr Sawani then moved round to the passenger side and continued firing, shooting two men in the leg.

They were treated at a local hospital while the three other Muslim men in the car were not injured.

US representative Keith Ellison has called for a Department of Justice investigation into the incident.

Anthony Sawina is 26 years old

The Council on American-Islamic Relations executive director in Minnesota, Jaylani Hussein, said the local Muslim community was “shocked” and “horrified” at a press conference at the time.

Mr Sawina was arrested with a 380-caliber handgun handgun, which matched the weapon that was used during the incident, as reported by the Star Tribune.

Mr Sawina is being held at Hennepin County Jail for $75,000 bail.

Prosecutors asked for Mr Sawina’s bail to be a higher amount, given he has two previous convictions for carrying a weapon without a permit, and that he “posed a danger to public safety”.

Mr Hussein told The Independent that the attack represented “the worst form of Islamophobia when individuals are picked out from society” due to, he said, the fact they were Muslim and wearing traditional dress.

“It’s an extremely scary story and a tragedy as we now have a heightened fear of Muslims in this country,” he said.

He added that the rhetoric against Muslims, especially from politicians today, encourages people to believe they can exercise violence in the name of “vigilante activity”.

He said he met with the men who were targeted and said some of them are still afraid.

“One of them even explained to me that he thought he had seen someone that looked similar [to Mr Sawani] at a gas station and he panicked,” said Mr Hussein. “But it wasn’t the person he thought.“

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments