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A 21-year-old Minneapolis man who fired three gunshots inside the Mall of America last summer pleaded guilty to assault Tuesday, averting trial while asking the judge for a sentence under three years.

Shamar Alon Ramon Lark, a convicted repeat gun offender, was set for trial Monday, but instead Hennepin County prosecutors agreed to dismiss two felony gun charges in connection with the shooting Aug. 4. With Lark's plea to second-degree assault, he admitted to firing "warning shots" to allegedly ward off attackers, but Bloomington Police Chief Booker Hodges said self-defense is "preposterous."

"He lost a fight and he pulled out a gun," Hodges said in a phone interview.

Lark appeared in court remotely Tuesday with defense attorney Bruce Rivers, who told District Judge Kerry Meyer they would argue for a downward departure at his sentencing July 26.

"There's always a chance she could send you to prison," Rivers told Lark, who posted $60,000 bond last month.

Lark said he was attacked and tried to fight back.

"I came back and fired three warning shots and then fled," he said. But he agreed that the alleged attackers never fired shots or pointed a firearm in his direction.

Meyer allowed Lark to appear via Zoom from Rivers' office, which is one block away from the courthouse. She told Lark that come sentencing, "You have to be in person and ready to go into custody that day whether to workhouse or prison."

Lark's accomplice, Rashad Jamal May, 23, of Burnsville, pleaded guilty April 25 to aiding an offender on probation to avoid arrest. As part of May's plea, a second-degree assault charge is dismissed. His sentencing is June 27 and the proposed plea agreement is a stay of imposition for three years.

May's defense attorney, Lee Wolfgram, said he intends to play surveillance video at sentencing and argue for a gross misdemeanor departure to avoid prison time.

He said May — previously convicted in April 2021 of possessing a gun without a permit — and Lark were not the aggressors; rather security video allegedly shows they were standing in line, minding their own business and were jumped by four guys. He said they knew the group to be gang-affiliated and have guns.

He said May and Lark were running from attackers. "They weren't running from police," Wolfgram said in an interview, adding that May is admitting to calling the getaway drivers.

Hodges said that the defendants were not chased out of the store. In fact, they left and returned to Nike when shots were fired by Lark.

Lark and May fled the Mall of America and evaded police with the help of Best Western hotel employees who picked them up in a hotel shuttle bus at nearby Ikea. A week later they were arrested in Chicago while getting haircuts, Hodges said.

"I hope that they really get the help that they need so they don't do this again," he said, "and the next time they decide to go to Chicago and get haircuts they don't shoot up the mall before doing that."

At the time of the shooting, Lark was banned from possessing firearms following an unlawful gun possession conviction four months before. He also pleaded guilty in October 2021 to gross misdemeanor possession without a permit.

Mall of America saw its first fatal shooting Dec. 23, 2022. In that pending case, two 18-year-olds are accused of killing Johntae Hudson, 19 of St. Paul, in the Nordstrom department store crowded with holiday shoppers.