MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - The mysterious, umbrella-carrying man seen in a viral video smashing the windows of the Auto Zone during the Minneapolis riots is believed to be a member of the Hell’s Angels biker gang whose actions were intended to incite violence and racial tension in what had previously been peaceful protests, according to police.
Police filed a search warrant Monday for the cell phone records of the person suspected to be the “Umbrella Man,” as he was dubbed after the video went viral.
The incident involving the “Umbrella Man” occurred on Wednesday, May 27. In the late afternoon, a man dressed in all black, wearing a black gas mask and carrying a black umbrella was recorded walking along the front of the Auto Zone near Chicago and Lake and using appeared to be a 4-pound sledgehammer breaking out all of the store front windows, according to the search warrant.
The “Umbrella man” is also believed to be responsible for spray painting the words “free s*** for everyone zone” on double red doors on the front of the Auto Zone store.
The search warrant says breaking the windows of the Auto Zone set off a chain reaction that led to looting in the area, the Auto Zone being set on fire a short time later, and eventually a string of fires and looting throughout the Third Precinct and the rest of the city.
“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 reads.
“Candidly, they [Hell’s Angels] are capable of a lot, and obviously, kicking off a major riot that spread across the country—if it in fact comes out that this one person sparked the flame--that’s very significant,” said Steve Cook, a Missouri police officer and president of the Midwest Outlaw Motorcycle Gang Investigators Association.
Cook said while he does not believe the suspect’s actions on May 27 were a coordinated effort of the Hell’s Angels, it’s possible the individual had gang-related motives.
“The Hell’s Angels do a lot of bad things and I’ll never make excuses for them but something like this, I have a hard time believing the gang would sanction something like this,” he said, explaining that while the group is guilty of murders and other violent crimes, this would put the notorious organized crime group out in front of a national issue—attention they likely wouldn’t want.
In the last week, the Minneapolis Police Department received an emailed tip regarding the identity of “Umbrella Man.”
An investigator contacted the tipster, who identified the “Umbrella Man” as a 32-year-old Hell’s Angels member who “wanted to sow discord and racial unrest by breaking out the windows and writing what he did on the double red doors,” according to the search warrant.
Further investigation by police determined the person suspected to be “Umbrella Man” is not only a full-fledged member of the Hell’s Angels, but is also a known associate of the Aryan Cowboys, a prison gang out of Minnesota and Kentucky. Photos showed he was present at the incident in Stillwater on June 27 where a Muslim woman was racially harassed by a group of motorcycle members wearing Aryan Cowboy leather vests, according to the search warrant.
Cook said he only became familiar with the Aryan Cowboys after seeing photos of them alongside Hell’s Angels at the Stillwater incident.
“That was a verification that they were considered legitimate because the Hell’s Angels wouldn’t be with them if not,” said Cook. “Basically what they are are groups that they can recruit members out of. They can look at these guys and see what kind of member they might make as far as being a Hell’s Angel and they can select the guys out of those groups.”
The search warrant aims to obtain cell phone records from the suspect, as investigators try to link him to the Auto Zone incident. Charges have yet to be filed.