Minneapolis, MN – Minneapolis police have gotten a search warrant for the cell phone of a suspect believed to be the “umbrella man” who smashed windows and vandalized the Auto Zone, effectively kicking off the rioting that has plagued the city ever since.
The incident occurred on May 27 when a bystander’s cell phone video captured the moment a black-clad man with a purple gas mask, carrying an umbrella, began smashing the windows of an Auto Zone with a sledgehammer, WCCO reported.
Police said he also spray-painted the words “free s–t for everyone” in white paint across the front of the car parts store, according to KARE.
The search warrant application said the man in the video had a white substance on his right index finger that matched the graffiti on the store.
Later, the Auto Zone was set on fire, KARE reported.
Police have said the man with the umbrella and the sledgehammer kicked off the attack on businesses at the start of looting and rioting throughout the Twin Cities.
“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,” the search warrant application said, according to KARE.
Minneapolis police investigated and came up empty until they received a tip about the umbrella man’s identity in July, WCCO reported.
The tip identified the man in the purple gas mask as a full-fledged member of the Hell’s Angels who wanted to “sow discord and racial unrest” by vandalizing the Auto Zone, according to police.
Police confirmed that the suspect named by the tipster was a member of the Hell’s Angels motorcycle gang and discovered he was also an associate member of the Aryan Cowboys, too, WCCO reported.
The Aryan Cowboys are a prison gang out of Minnesota and Kentucky.
Police said the suspect was also recently involved in an incident in Stillwater when a Muslim woman claimed to have been harassed by bikers in Aryan Cowboy vests, WCCO reported.
Police said the suspect identified by the tipster bears a striking resemblance to the man in the video at the Auto Zone, including some facial features and his height.
Investigators got a warrant that will allow them to see all the activity from the suspect’s cell phone on May 27 to determine if he was actually “umbrella man,” WCCO reported.
This is the second time the identity of the suspect has been provided by a tipster but the first tip was found to be inaccurate pretty soon after the incident occurred.
The St. Paul Police Department posted a series of tweets on May 28 to debunk a rumor that a purple gas mask-clad protester who smashed the windows at the Auto Zone was actually a local police officer in disguise.
The officer who was allegedly in the video was actually at work protecting his city, and nowhere in the area of the Auto Zone in Minneapolis at the time.
“We know with precision where that officer has been and who that officer has been with,” St. Paul Police Spokesman Steve Linders said, according to The Washington Post. “He was at work, and not at the location.”
But on social media, rumors that a St. Paul police officer had started the looting continued to go viral and so the police department attempted to shut it down yet again late Thursday night.
“RUMOR CONTROL … We are aware of the social media post that erroneously identifies one of our officers as the person caught on video breaking windows in Minneapolis. We’ve seen it. We’ve looked into it. And it’s false,” the St. Paul Police Department tweeted.
“So we also want to be perfectly clear about this: The person in the video is not our officer,” the department added in a second tweet.
And just in case people were still confused about the identity of the violent protester, police clarified again in a third tweet.
“We don’t know who that person is, but we hope he’s identified and held accountable for his actions,” police wrote.