Great Spell

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Police say a man captured on surveillance video breaking windows at a south Minneapolis auto parts store in the days after George Floyd’s death is suspected of ties with a white supremacist group and sought to incite racial tension.

The man’s actions soon led to an arson fire, the first of several that transformed peaceful protests into chaos, police say. He has been dubbed “Umbrella Man” for dressing in an all-black outfit that included hood, gas mask and black umbrella.

“This was the first fire that set off a string of fires and looting throughout the precinct and the rest of the city,” Erika Christensen, a Minneapolis police arson investigator, wrote in a search warrant affidavit this week, the Star Tribune reported.

Police identified the 32-year-old suspect through an emailed tip last week, Christensen said, and he is understood to be a Hell’s Angels member who was bent on stirring up social unrest.

Minneapolis police declined to confirm the name of the suspect.

Despite the bulk of protests in Minnesota being peaceful, some rioting spread to other parts of Minneapolis and St Paul.

Floyd was killed on 25 May after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes. A livestreamed video two days later, on 27 May, showed “Umbrella Man” walking along the front of an AutoZone store and breaking out the windows with a sledgehammer. Some protesters confronted the man and asked him to stop.

Before that, the man, who was carrying a black umbrella, spray painted on the front doors, police said. The AutoZone fire was the first that firefighters responded to during the civil unrest, Bryan Tyner, the assistant Minneapolis fire chief, said on Tuesday.

In the affidavit, Christensen wrote that she watched “innumerable hours” of videos on social media platforms trying to identify the suspect with no luck.

Finally a tipster emailed the Minneapolis police department identifying the man as a member of the Hell’s Angels biker gang 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 affidavit.

An investigation found that the man was also an associate of the Aryan Cowboy Brotherhood, a white supremacist prison and street gang.