MINNEAPOLIS — Investigators suspect the “umbrella man” seen in video phone footage smashing out windows at an Auto Zone store on Minneapolis’ East Lake Street in the days following George Floyd’s death is a 32-year-old white supremacist who sought to “incite violence,” according to a search warrant affidavit.
In the search warrant affidavit filed Monday, July 27, in Hennepin County District Court, arson investigator Erika Christensen of the Minneapolis Police Department wrote that an anonymous tip received by police indicates the man to be the person on video seen breaking windows.
The man is a member of the Hell’s Angels motorcycle gang and a “known associate of the Aryan Cowboys,” according to Christensen.
The affidavit describes the Aryan Cowboys as a “known prison gang out of Minnesota and Kentucky.”
As of Tuesday, the man had not been arrested or charged in connection with the incident.
In the video footage captured of the incident, a man dressed all in black — in black gloves, a black mask and carrying a black umbrella — is seen using a hammer to break the windows of Auto Zone’s storefront on May 27. Floyd died while in Minneapolis police custody on May 25.
In the video footage, the so-called “umbrella man” is approached by several people. While it’s unclear what was said, body language of those involved suggests they were trying to stop his conduct, the affidavit said.
It was later determined that the same man spray-painted the words, “free (expletive) for everyone zone” on the store’s front doors, according to the affidavit.
The store was looted and set ablaze shortly thereafter, marking the incident as a turning point in the unrest that followed the officer-involved fatality, Christensen wrote.
“This was the first fire that set off a string of fires and looting throughout the precinct and the rest of the city. Until the actions of the … ‘Umbrella man,’ the protests had been relatively peaceful. The actions of this person created an atmosphere of hostility and tension,” Christensen wrote. “(I) … believe … this individual’s sole aim was to incite violence.”
Christensen said she spent “innumerable hours” combing social media trying to determine the “Umbrella man’s” identity but was unsuccessful.
She also spent about two weeks working on the case with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ National Response Team.
The effort stalled until about a week ago, when Minneapolis police received a tip via email that suggested the 32-year-old was the suspect, the affidavit said.
Christensen researched the email and was able to contact the sender. The sender stated that she had learned of his involvement from another person who wanted to stay anonymous because the individual feared him, the affidavit said.
The person reported that the man is a member of Hell’s Angels who wanted to “sow discord and racial unrest” by breaking the store’s windows and writing on the doors.
Christensen later learned that the man was involved in a racially-motivated incident that took place in Stillwater on June 27, according to the affidavit.
In that case, a Muslim woman was reportedly “racially harassed by a group of motorcycle club members wearing Aryan Cowboy leather vests,” the affidavit said.
The man was reportedly photographed with the group.
After looking at his driver’s license photo and several booking photos, and comparing them to the “umbrella man,” Christensen said she observed a “striking resemblance in the eye, nose, bridge and brow area” between the two. She also noted that both appear to have a “slight variation in their left eyebrow” and that their height appears roughly the same.