A man convicted of felony threats of violence after pulling a gun during a confrontation with several black, Muslim teenagers in an Eden Prairie McDonald’s in November has been sentenced to 45 days in jail.
Hennepin County District Judge Philip Carruthers ordered Lloyd Edward Johnson, 55, to report to the Hennepin County workhouse on May 17 to serve 45 days and also ordered 24 days of community service.
Johnson pleaded guilty March 7 to the felony after the McDonald’s exchange with several Eden Prairie High School students ended with Johnson allegedly shoving one of the students and pulling out a gun before backing out of the restaurant.
A video of Johnson shouting at the teenagers went viral on social media and attracted national attention after one of the young women involved in the incident posted it on Twitter. The incident spurred a conversation about gun violence and racism at an Eden Prairie community forum on Dec. 10.
Impact and apologies
Several of the students who were victims in the incident attended the hearing. Two unnamed students wrote impact statements, which victim advocate Hodan Abdi read to the court. Both wrote about the lasting trauma and fear they experienced after the incident.
“As a 17-year-old, my worry in life should be school or getting the latest electronics,” one wrote. “Unfortunately, I’m not unfamiliar with the discrimination that comes with being a black, Muslim woman.”
“Being confronted with such blatant racism is not something foreign to me,” the other wrote.
Johnson apologized for his behavior on Nov. 19, while denying his actions were racist.
“They thought I was being racist, it’s the furthest from the truth,” he said. “I have respect for everybody.”
Johnson said he was fired after the video of him yelling at the teens went viral, and he has since moved to Washington state, where his family lives. He feels guilty for “putting young people like that in danger” and regrets his actions, he said.
“I can imagine the nightmares they’re having, and I’m sorry for that,” Johnson added. “I never meant to hurt anybody.”
Before handing down the sentence, Carruthers thanked the victims for their statements, calling them powerful and moving.
“We hear you and the court hears you,” he said.
Carruthers told Johnson while he appreciated the apology, he doesn’t believe Johnson fully understands the impact of his actions.
“You really pierced their comfort, you pierced their security,” he said.
Johnson reported to the Hennepin County workhouse on Friday, Carruthers ruled. He will likely complete his community service in Washington state, his lawyer Joshua London indicated.
The prosecution and defense agreed to a stay of imposition, which means if he complies with his parole, Johnson’s felony will be reduced to a misdemeanor and the mandatory $3,000 fine will be reduced to $500. Johnson also must undergo a mental health evaluation and dispose of his firearms, of which he owns several, Johnson said.
The sentence falls between what prosecutor Scott Haldeman and London asked for. Haldeman requested that Johnson serve 90 days in the workhouse, while London asked that he be required to complete 80 days of community service in two years.
CAIR MN has represented the students and their families since the Nov. 19 incident. Executive Director Jaylani Hussein said while he appreciates that the incident was taken seriously and is relieved that Johnson is no longer allowed to own firearms, the sentence could have been more severe.
“Obviously we wish that there was a harsher sentence for him,” he said. “It shows that there was a lot more leniency toward the sentencing than we anticipated.”
Hussein characterized the event as a “hate incident” in a Dec. 3 news conference, saying Johnson made racially charged remarks and would not have done so if the teens were not “young black and brown Muslims.”
Two teenagers told police Johnson was waiting in line behind them at McDonald’s as they tried to use Apple Pay to pay for their food and Johnson “started complaining and told them to hurry up” and then said, “You were probably trying to pay with EBT,” (Electronic Benefit Transfer, also commonly known as SNAP), according to the charging document.
One of the teens confronted Johnson and Johnson approached her and “got into her face.” The teen’s friends then approached, and the argument continued until Johnson pulled out his gun and left the restaurant, the complaint says.
Farida Osman, one of the teens involved in the incident, told Buzzfeed News her friend, Jihan Abdullahi, told Johnson he shouldn’t make comments about EBT.
“Jihan said, ‘Just because I’m black does not mean I use EBT,’” Farida told Buzzfeed. “Basically after that, he was trying to say, ‘You do use EBT,’ and Jihan was saying, ‘No I don’t,’ and telling him to stop being racist.”