Just two days after the death ofat the hands of police in May, a masked man holding an umbrella was seen smashing windows and helping to incite violence during protests in . Now, the city's police department believes it has identified the man as a white supremacist, linking the suspect to the Hells Angels and the Aryan Cowboys. The man has not yet been charged.
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 sh** for everyone zone" on the store's front doors, police said.
Looting and arson incidents were reported not long after — until that night, the protests were "relatively peaceful," according to officials. Police said that a fire started in the Auto Zone was the first in a string of fires and looting throughout the city.
The store was located opposite the city's Third Precinct building, whichafter the police evacuated.
Minneapolis police arson investigator Erika Christensen filed a search warrant affidavit in Hennepin County District Court on Monday, requesting the suspect's cellphone records in order to confirm his location at the time of the incident.
"The actions of this person created an atmosphere of hostility and tension … this individual's sole aim was to incite violence," Christensen wrote.
Police worked for weeks to identify the suspect, who was dressed in head-to-toe black clothing, including a gas mask, with a hammer in one hand and an umbrella in the other. Christensen said she watched countless hours of social media footage in an unsuccessful attempt to identify him.
Earlier this month, the police department received a tip, naming a 32-year-old man as a member of the Hell's Angels who wanted to "sow discord and racial unrest." Christensen said photos, including a driver's license, match video footage and descriptions of the man.
Christensen confirmed the suspect is a member of the biker gang Hells Angels and an associate of the Aryan Cowboys, a white supremacist prison gang, which the Anti-Defamation League says is primarily based in Minnesota and Kentucky. Police also suspect the man of being involved in a recent incident in which a Muslim woman said she was harassed by Aryan Cowboys members in Stillwater, Minnesota.
Last month, a member of the St. Paul Police Department faced so many accusations that he was "Umbrella Man" that the department was forced to issue a denial, including time-stamped surveillance videos.
Several members of the Trump administration have sought to blame violence and vandalism during nationwide racial justice protests on Democrats. Attorney General William Barr claimed, without evidence, that many of the protests were led by "far-left extremists."
Following the news of the suspect's apparent identification, Sherrilyn Ifill, the president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, tweeted it's "a great time to ask AG Barr about the department's investigation of violent white supremacist groups."
Minneapolis Police declined a request to comment on the ongoing investigation.