Viral videos captured the suspect, dubbed “Umbrella Man,” breaking the glass windows of an Auto Zone in south Minneapolis on May 27, ignoring people’s pleas to stop. He is also responsible for spray painting, “Free shit for everyone zone” on the store’s front doors, police said.
A masked man who was seen in a video smashing the windows of a south Minneapolis auto parts store earning him the moniker “Umbrella Man,” is suspected of ties with a white supremacist group and sought to incite racial tension, police said. A Minneapolis police arson investigator said the act of vandalism at the AutoZone on East Lake Street sparked a chain reaction that led to days of looting and rioting. The store was among dozens of buildings across the city that burned to the ground in the days that followed.
“This was the first fire that set off a string of fires and looting throughout the precinct and the rest of the city,” Sgt. Erika Christensen wrote in a search warrant affidavit filed in court this week. “Until the actions of the person your affiant has been calling ‘Umbrella Man,’ the protests had been peaceful. The actions of this person created an atmosphere of hostility and tension. Your affiant believes that this individual’s sole aim, “was to incite violence.”
One protester in particular, seen in the video wearing a pink shirt and carrying a pizza box, followed “Umbrella Man” around the building to the rear,where the two men got into a heated exchange. Before that, police say, the man, clad in black head-to-toe and carrying a black umbrella, had spray painted “free Shit for everyone zone” on the double front doors. At the time, activists seized on the footage as proof that outside “provocateurs” were trying to derail what had been a mostly peaceful demonstration. But others on social media pointed out that at least some looting had gone on before the video surfaced.
Christensen wrote in the affidavit that she watched “innumerable hours” of videos on social media platforms like Tik Tok, Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube to try to identify “Umbrella Man,” to no avail. Investigators finally caught a break when a tipster e-mailed the MPD identifying the man as a member of the Hell’s Angels biker gang who “wanted to sow discord and racial unrest by breaking out the windows and writing what he did on the double red doors,” she wrote. Police have also connected the 32-year-old man to a widely-publicized incident in Stillwater late last month, in which a Muslim woman was confronted by a group of men wearing white supremacist garb. A subsequent investigation revealed that the man was also an associate of the Aryan Cowboy Brotherhood, a small white supremacist prison and street gang based primarily in Minnesota and Kentucky. Several of its members were also present at the Stillwater incident.
The AutoZone in question was across the street from the shuttered Third Precinct police station, the epicenter of the first few nights of the protests. After someone started a fire at the store, firefighters worked to douse the flames, knocking down the majority of them. But within a matter of hours, the store was ablaze again, as was a half-built affordable housing development that caught fire, sending flames more than a hundred feet into the air. Andy Shoemaker, a former St. Paul police officer who has investigated criminal motorcycle gangs, said the Aryan Cowboys are a relatively new group with loyalties to the Hells Angels, who operate across the state. “They’re another group that’s basically a farm system, a minor league for the Hells Angels,” he said, adding the Angels occasionally recruit members from some of these offshoot clubs.
It’s worth noting, Hell’s angel’s HQ in Minneapolis is on the north side, on Washington Ave. Just about a block north of the burger king on Lowry. Minneapolis police had strong ties to the north side white biker community, as a lot of those guys work as bail bondsmen. Look into the Gustafson family and the beat down posse. https://www.twincities.com/2011/02/24/thieves-thugs-dope-dealers-and-bail-bondsmen/
The weeks that followed Floyd’s death brought dozens of reports of racially motivated assaults against ethnic minorities and minority-owned businesses. Some stories have since been debunked, like one persistent report on social media in the days after Floyd’s death suggesting a group of white supremacists had reserved a block of rooms at a Fridley hotel. Local police said their investigation determined the rumor was likely started by a hotel employee. Leaked intelligence briefings show that federal authorities were monitoring the movements and online activity of white nationalists and other extremist groups that descended on the city during the riots. The president of the Hells Angels summoned 75 members of the Aryan Cowboy Brotherhood to the help protect the club’s headquarters in north Minneapolis, according to an intelligence memo, which surfaced earlier this year as part of massive trove of leaked law enforcement documents dubbed “Blue Leaks.” A club member later posted a warning to protesters on Facebook saying that while the Angels agreed with the anti-law enforcement message, but that any protests that reached the clubhouse or “any of our neighborhoods” would be “met with a very unfriendly welcome party”
Another leaked memo suggested that local gangs were taking advantage of the unrest to step up their drug trafficking in the Metro area, and that bikers “associated with white racially motivated violent extremists” had discussed inciting riots while posing as members of the anti-fascist group Antifa. It wasn’t immediately clear from the leaked materials whether any of these threats materialized. After the protests began, footage of “Umbrella Man” roared around social media, prompting a flurry of speculation about the man’s identity.
One persistent rumor argued “Umbrella Man” was an undercover St. Paul police officer seeking to incite violence, a claim apparently based on a tweet citing information from a woman who claimed to have once been married to the officer. In response, St. Paul police released a series of time-stamped surveillance videos showing that the officer was in St. Paul at the time of the incident and police Chief Todd Axtell released a statement scolding social media users for spreading misinformation that could “jeopardize the officer’s reputation and safety and chip away at the trust this police department has worked so hard to build with its community.”
Whether it’s just some random white guy that wanted to incite property damage, a supremacist, a cop, or a member of a gang: Umbrella Man casually did what he set out to do, and used the Floyd protests to stir up the crowd and discredit the peaceful protests that resulted from the police murder of an unarmed citizen.
Justin Terrell, executive director of the Council for Minnesotans of African American Heritage, said that conversations around Floyd’s death and the ensuing riots are important, but they often fail to account for the persistence of structural racism. “I think at the end of the day, we need to start dealing with those issues, because I think this Umbrella Man, he is a rotten piece of fruit at the farthest branch of the tree, (but) we’ve gotta get to the roots,” Terrell said. “I think we have to do the work to get there, which America has never done, and Minnesota sure hasn’t.”
The former officer, Derek Chauvin, is charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter, and three of his colleagues who were also at the scene, J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao, have been charged with aiding and abetting Chauvin. At least two people died in the subsequent riots, which eventually spread as far as north Minneapolis and South St. Paul, and caused an estimated $500 million in damage. Authorities have since charged a handful of people with arson-related crimes. A widely-shared livestream video from May 27 — two days after Floyd’s death — showed the man walking casually along the front of the former site of Auto Zone store, at E. Lake Street and Minnehaha, breaking out its windows with a 4-pound sledgehammer, prompting some protesters to confront him and demand that he stop.nly surfaced in the search warrant, and isn’t naming the man because so far he has not been charged with a crime. Spokespeople for the Minneapolis Police Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, which is also involved in the investigation, declined to comment on Tuesday. Floyd’s death under the knee of a since-fired Minneapolis police officer set off protests that spread around the world and stirred a widespread reckoning over racial injustice.
MINNEAPOLIS—Ever since protesters flooded the streets following the killing of George Floyd in police custody, residents here have wondered: Who burned down so many businesses in the Twin Cities, and why?
While a few arrests have been made so far, the question continues to go largely unanswered. “It’s perplexing as can be,” said Cam McCambridge, co-owner of a Minneapolis building that housed Family Dollar and O’Reilly Auto Parts stores before it collapsed in an overnight inferno during rioting two weeks ago.
The widespread destruction across much of Minneapolis and St. Paul sets the Twin Cities apart from other flare-ups of unrest following Mr. Floyd’s killing. The arson threatens to complicate the region’s recovery, as political leaders grapple with curbing police brutality and racial discrimination.
The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has taken the unusual step of deploying two national response teams of agents to investigate approximately 135 business fires in the Twin Cities. The agency is working with local authorities and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The ATF has released photos and videos, asking for the public’s help in identifying suspects caught on security cameras lighting fires, pouring accelerants and throwing an apparent Molotov cocktail. As agents dig through burned-out rubble and interview witnesses, William Henderson, the ATF special agent in charge in St. Paul, has cautioned: “These investigations are going to take time.”
Minnesota state officials have pointed to unspecified and unconnected outsiders, including white supremacists, anarchists and drug cartels for turning peaceful demonstrations into violent riots that left scores of businesses looted, damaged or destroyed by flames.
So far, however, authorities haven’t accused anyone charged in local arson cases with having extremist ties, and most of the handful of defendants in arson cases hail from the Twin Cities area.
“Sometimes we want to lay the blame on the outsiders, and maybe it’s us—I really don’t know,” said Steve Wellington, a commercial real-estate developer with three properties damaged or destroyed by fire, including an affordable housing project and a shopping center. Mr. Wellington said he was optimistic the community would rebuild and address underlying injustices that sparked the unrest.
The only non-Minnesotan to face arson charges so far is Matthew Rupert of Galesburg, Ill. Federal prosecutors accuse Mr. Rupert, 28 years old, of passing out explosive devices to attack police and setting fire to a Sprint store while live-broadcasting on Facebook.
Mr. Rupert’s lawyer, however, said his client was handing out firecrackers and exaggerating on social media. The lawyer, Jordan Kushner, suggested his client faced a “political prosecution,” given what he characterized as pressure to arrest protesters amid claims of anarchists’ involvement.
“There’s no evidence of any of that being present here,” Mr. Kushner said at a hearing this week. He declined to comment on the arson accusation. A federal prosecutor disputed his claim of political influence.
In the case of two local men accused of setting fire to a suburban government building with Molotov cocktails, prosecutors cited evidence of antipolice fervor. In a video from one man’s seized cellphone, he voiced outrage at police behavior, saying: “We need to fight back.”
One case involves a 19-year-old from a Minneapolis suburb who allegedly used hand sanitizer to light a fire inside a nutritional-supplement store. Another case involves a 23-year-old St. Paul man who allegedly helped fuel a fire at a Minneapolis police station. His lawyer said his client “got caught up in events” after taking part in peaceful protests.
Neighborhoods have been left without grocery stores, pharmacies and restaurants, and in many cases workers find themselves jobless during a recession.
Solomon Haile and Rekik Abaineh, the owners of Bolé, an Ethiopian restaurant in St. Paul, lost that business and a new fast-casual eatery they were planning to open. They said they were exploring starting a food truck while aiming to maintain a foothold in the scarred neighborhood.
“It’s our baby. It’s sad to see it burn down, but hopefully we’ll come back bigger and better,” said Ms. Abaineh.
Private citizens came out to protect their neighborhoods with peaceful hand held lines, not letting rioters near downtown residences and places of business. Several vehicles with painted out license plates and windows were witnessed and photo documented, and believed to be radicals bused in to cause more destruction.
The chaos for many nights had local residents on edge. They kept watchful eyes outside their homes during overnight curfews, looking for suspicious cars without license plates. Authorities warned of bottles of gasoline and other incendiary devices hidden in bushes or alleyways.
Scott Dibble, a Minnesota state senator whose neighbors found gas canisters stashed in his apartment building’s dumpsters, lamented that much of the damage occurred in diverse neighborhoods. “Who supports the destruction of minority and immigrant owned businesses?” the Democrat asked.
“It was a scary time and it wasn’t about the (George Floyd) protesters,” said Rhonda Kist, 53, a Minneapolis resident who counts herself among demonstrators and saw suspicious vehicles after curfew while keeping watch in her neighborhood.
Jim Stage, owner of 102-year-old Lloyd’s Pharmacy in St. Paul, said he is less concerned about who burned down his business than in serving some 8,000 patients at another pharmacy he owns—and eventually rebuilding. “We have moved on,” Mr. Stage said. “What happened is done. Our call is to forgive them.”
This guy, if found to be responsible, should face severe penalty. The rioters who committed subsequent acts of violence should also have the book thrown at them. Some have been arrested/charged which is great. What is so frustrating is how this discussion has morphed into right vs left, Trump, “antifa”, etc. The bottom line is that it doesn’t matter what political affiliations these nihilists may or may not have. They are criminals before anything else.
Mitch Carlson was in Minneapolis on May 29th (2 days after the “Umbrella Man” incident):
These pictures were taken at the Hells Angels “clubhouse” in Minneapolis (3234 N Washington Ave): https://www.startribune.com/hells-angels-win-fight-to-regain-clubhouse/14621327/
Mitch and the others in the pictures were “protecting” the clubhouse from potential looters/rioters…
He was also convicted of a felony in July 2019 for “Terroristic Threats – Reckless Disregard Risk”, and had a domestic assault by strangulation case dismissed all at that same time.
There’s more charges under his name, mostly speeding, driving with a suspended license, brawling, and carrying dangerous weapons. (switchblade/knuckles)