Minneapolis police have identified a suspect dubbed "Umbrella Man," whom they believe helped initiate riots and destruction in the Minnesota city following the death of George Floyd in police custody. A search warrant obtained by local CBS station WCCO reveals the man is associated with the Aryan Cowboys, a prison and street gang listed by the Anti-Defamation League as white supremacists, which the warrant identifies as a "known prison gang out of Minnesota and Kentucky."
The suspect, who had not had charges filed against him as of Tuesday afternoon, appears to be white in footage taken of him at protests and was seen dressed all in black, wearing a black gas mask and carrying an umbrella. Video of "Umbrella Man" went viral after peaceful protesters confronted him on May 27 while he was seen smashing windows of an AutoZone. In a search warrant affidavit, Sgt. Erika Christensen, a Minneapolis police arson investigator, wrote he spray-painted "free s— for everyone zone" on the doors of the store, smashing in the windows. Not much later, looting began of the store, and the AutoZone was eventually set on fire, the affidavit said.
"This was the first fire that set off a string of fires and looting throughout the precinct and the rest of the city," Christensen wrote in the affidavit, filed Monday, as per CNN. "Until the actions of the person, your affiant has been calling 'Umbrella Man,' the protests had been relatively 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."
Christensen added that police received a tip recently as to the man's identity, with the informant telling investigators that he "wanted to sow discord and racial unrest by breaking out the windows and writing what he did on the double red doors." He was then identified as an associate of the Aryan Cowboys after he was determined to be present during "an incident in Stillwater Minnesota where a Muslim woman was racially harassed by a group of motorcycle club members wearing Aryan Cowboy leather vests." Minneapolis Police spokesman John Elder told CNN Tuesday that the case "remains an open and active investigation," but that he couldn't comment any further.
During the days that followed the death of George Floyd, who died in police custody after fired Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes amid his pleas that he couldn't breathe, protests turned to riots in the city. Both Gov. Tim Walz and Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey warned at the time of the possible influence of white supremacist actors taking to the streets to incite violence, with Frey tweeting on May 30, "We are now confronting white supremacists, members of organized crime, out of state instigators, and possibly even foreign actors to destroy and destabilize our city and our region."