Charges filed against Anthony Sawina in alleged Dinkytown hate crime

A Lauderdale man faces five counts of second-degree assault in the shooting of two Muslim men.

by Eliana Schreiber

A 26-year-old man has been charged in the late-June shooting of two Somali men near the University of Minnesota. 

Anthony Sawina, of Lauderdale, was charged in Hennepin County District Court Friday with five counts of second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon in connection with the case. 

Sawina allegedly shot at five Somali men, striking two, near the intersection of 14th Avenue Southeast and Sixth Street Southeast early June 29 after a member of Sawina’s group made derogatory comments directed toward Muslims. 

After the shooting, the Minneapolis Police Department said the incident would be investigated as a possible hate crime. Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., later called for the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the incident. 

At about 2:30 a.m. June 29, the five victims were leaving the area after playing basketball when they encountered a group that allegedly included Sawina leaving a Dinkytown bar. 

One of the people in the group asked one of the victims, “what’s that dress you’re wearing?” When the group of victims — who were all wearing traditional Muslim clothing — disregarded the question, another member of Sawina’s group allegedly made a derogatory comment about Muslims, according to the criminal complaint.

When one of the victims asked why someone would say that about Muslims, Sawina allegedly approached the victims’ vehicle and said, “What if someone said it? What if?” before he pulled out a pistol and shot through the car’s windshield and passenger side, the criminal complaint read.

Two of the victims fled as Sawina drew the weapon, according to court records. Two of the victims in the car were shot in the lower leg and suffered non-life-threatening injuries.  

Authorities inspected video surveillance footage from the area to corroborate the victims’ story and used receipts from Dinkytown bars to locate witnesses. 

Sawina was arrested on July 21. He has two previous convictions for carrying a firearm without a permit. Discharged shell casings matched the caliber of two handguns recovered from Sawina, according to the complaint. 

Sawina remained in Hennepin County Jail as of Tuesday afternoon in lieu of $750,000 bail. He is scheduled to appear in court again on August 26.