Minneapolis police say a man known as the “Umbrella Man,” seen damaging property in the city during the Black Lives Matter protests, has ties to white supremacist groups.
People took to the streets of the city after the death in May of George Floyd, an unarmed black man.
Police say Umbrella Man helped make the largely peaceful protests violent.
Images of the man wearing a mask and an umbrella while smashing shop windows went viral online.
In the video, taken on May 27, Umbrella Man can be seen breaking windows with a hammer as people approach him trying to stop him. Then he walks away from the scene.
Police said they also sprayed a message on the store’s doors.
It raised questions about who the man was and his motives.
Violence erupted in the city during the protests and the National Guard was called after looting was reported and buildings burned down.
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Police say the man’s actions were a catalyst for the violence. The AutoZone store that was seen damaging in the video was later burned down.
Erika Christensen, a Minneapolis police investigator, said in a search affidavit filed Monday: “This was the first fire that sparked a series of fires and looting throughout the compound and the rest of the city.”
The affidavit aims to gain access to the man’s mobile phone records for that day to establish where he was at the time of the incident.
Who is the umbrella man?
He has not been named by local media as he has not been formally charged with a crime.
Minnesota police searched the video of the violence extensively to try to identify the man, but had no luck.
According to the Star Tribune, the man was identified after an email notice. The email claimed that the man was a member of the Hells Angels motorcycle gang.
An investigation found that the man was also connected to the Aryan Cowboys, a biker from the prison / street gang. The Anti-Defamation League identifies them as a white supremacist group based primarily in Kentucky and Minnesota.
A Minneapolis police search warrant claims the man has previous convictions for domestic violence and assault.
It was these previous arrests that officials say helped them identify the man. They compared images taken from the Minneapolis incident with previous backup photos.
The arrest warrant states that the size of the man and the area of the eyes, nose, and forehead match that of the Umbrella Man.
The man is also alleged to have been involved in an incident last month in which a Muslim woman was confronted by a group of motorcyclists in Aryan Cowboy leather vests.
After images of the Minnesota protests were posted online, there were many theories as to who Umbrella Man might be.
The St Paul Police Department was forced to issue a statement and video denying that he was one of their officers.
Police Chief Todd Axtell said: “We knew immediately that our officer was not involved in instigating the Minneapolis riots because we knew exactly where he was at the time, and he was in St Paul.”
“This type of disinformation can jeopardize the officer’s reputation and safety, and reduce the trust that this police department has worked so hard to build with its community,” he added.