For months, activists and police have sought the identity of a figure who became known as “umbrella man” — a black-clad, anonymous vandal who took a hammer to a Minneapolis AutoZone in late May, just two days after the police killing of George Floyd.
Onlookers at the time suspected the man was an agent provocateur uninterested in racial justice.
On Tuesday, authorities said the mystery may have been solved.
In a search warrant affidavit first reported by the Minneapolis Star Tribune, a police arson investigator alleged that the man was Mitchell Wesley Carlson, a member of the Hells Angels biker gang and an associate of the white supremacist prison gang Aryan Cowboy Brotherhood. The Wall Street Journal subsequently reported Tuesday that a judge had signed off on the police request to look through Carlson’s phone records.
“The actions of this person created an atmosphere of hostility and tension,” the arson investigator, Erika Christensen, wrote to the court. “Your affiant believes that this individual’s sole aim was to incite violence.”
Though no charges have yet been filed against him, the affidavit alleged that Carlson spray painted “free shit for everyone” on the store before smashing its windows. The AutoZone was subsequently looted and burned. That event occurred early on in the weeks of fiery unrest in Minneapolis, and some on the ground blamed the anonymous man for seeking to tarnish the protests.
The window-smasher, some onlookers suspected at the time, could have been an undercover police officer or an extremist agitator seeking to sow destruction. In a viral video of his actions, protesters are heard yelling at the man “Are you a fucking cop?” and “What’s your badge number?” The man is recorded threatening an onlooker before walking away.
As theories flew on the web, the St. Paul Police Department released security camera footage of one of their own officers to prove he was not in Minneapolis at the time — despite internet sleuths’ assertions that he was a suspect.
Christensen wrote in her affidavit that she went through hours of social media footage attempting to identify the umbrella man, to no avail. Then a tip came in that he was a member of the Hells Angels who “wanted to sow discord and racial unrest by breaking out the windows and writing what he did on the double red doors,” Christensen wrote, per the Star Tribune.
Minneapolis resident Sophia Rashid’s account of the harassment, in which the gang members intimidated her and her four-year-old daughter while they were out to eat in the city of Stillwater, was widely shared online. Waitstaff eventually escorted Rashid and her daughter to their car.
“Hmmmmm…It’s almost like we should have been heavily tracking and monitoring extremist white supremacy groups instead of giving them the legal equivalent of a hallpass,” Rashid wrote on Facebook Tuesday, in response to the news of the police affidavit.
On Wednesday Rashid told Sahan Journal, a nonprofit newsroom focused on immigrants and refugees in Minnesota, that she felt that media and law enforcement had largely dismissed her concerns after the Stillwater incident.
“The minimization of what happened to me by the police, by the news, by my fellow citizens,” Rashid told the Journal, adding: “Look what these guys did. Why didn’t you listen to me? Why aren’t you listening to people like me?”