Waiting for the Umbrella Man or someone like him, cont’d

I’ve been wondering whatever happened to Umbrella Man. According to the officer who swore out the affidavit supporting the search warrant issued on the Umbrella Man suspect’s cell phone this past July, Umbrella Man was responsible for the vast harm inflicted on the Twin Cities in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd on Memorial Day. As I noted yesterday, Libor Jany’s page-one Star Tribune story of July 28 first reported the alleged centrality of Umbrella Man according to Minneapolis police officer Erika Christensen in “Minneapolis police say ‘Umbrella Man’ was a white supremacist trying to incite George Floyd rioting.”

Officer Christensen’s search warrant affidavit on the Umbrella Man suspect lays out a narrative that caught the attention of media around the world. Officer Christensen’s affidavit superimposed a mythical narrative over the events as we saw them unfold. I took a look that I think is truer to events in the July 3 City Journal column “Minnesota madness.”

This is Officer Christensen’s account:

On May 25, 2020 there was an officer involved incident on 38th and Chicago Av So. [w]hich lead [sic] to the death of a man by the name of George Floyd. As the result of his death there were large scale protests across the city over a period of several days.

The primary gathering for protests were [sic] held at the Minneapolis Third Precinct which is the precinct that the address of 38th and Chicago is located in. The Precinct was located at 3000 Minnehaha AV S. This is the southwest corner of the intersection of East Lake Street and Minnehaha Av S.

Kiddy corner from the precinct, on the northeast corner was a business called The AutoZone.On Wednesday May 27, 2020 in the late afternoon, early evening a male, dressed all in black (black pants, black jacket, black hood/hat, black shoes and black gloves and wearing a black gas mask) and carrying a black umbrella was video‐taped/recorded walking along the front of the Auto Zone and using what looks to be a 4 pound sledge hammer breaking out allof the stores front windows. This male is then approached by several people, and, while you could not hear the exchange the body language of those who approached this “UmbrellaMan,” appeared to be gesturing in a way like they were telling him not to do that.

It was also found later that this same “Umbrella Man” had spray painted the words “free shit for everyone zone” on double red doors on the front of the Auto Zone store. Upon looking at the video of the “Umbrella Man,” a white substance is observed on his right index finger of his gloves. This would match with the white spray paint used to write on the double red doors. This was done prior to breaking out the windows.

The “Umbrella Man” is followed by a black male in a pink shirt. This male then follows “Umbrella Man” as he walks around to the rear of the building (north side). The male in the pink shirt can be heard questioning “Umbrella man” as to who he is. At this point the “Umbrella Man” turns to the pink shirt male and yells at him (what was said was unintelligible). Umbrella Man then walks away, alone, going west bound.

In a short time after the front windows are broken out in the Auto Zone, looting started.Within a short time after the looting started, the Auto Zone was set on fire. This was the first fire that set off a string of fires and looting throughout the 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.

Here is the heart of her affidavit in support of the warrant on the Umbrella Man suspect:

Your affiant worked closely with the ATF’S (Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms) National Response Team for approximately 2 1⁄2 weeks after the riots. In that time “Umbrella Man” was a person of interest but no identification of who this person is was developed.

Within this past week your affiant became aware of a tip that had been emailed to the Minneapolis Police regarding this individual. The information was that the person responsible for breaking out the Auto Zone windows and who was known commonly as “Umbrella Man”….

Your affiant did some research on the email from which the tip came in on and was able to speak with this party. This party explained that the information came to them via another person who wished to remain anonymous because they fear ——-. Your affiant was told that ——- is a member of the Hell’s Angels and that ——- wanted to sow discord and racial unrest by breaking out the windows and writing what he did on the double red doors.

Your affiant has intentionally used the gender neutral “them/they” in explaining the information received.

Upon doing research your affiant was able to confirm that ——-, is a full‐fledged member of the Hell’s Angels and is a known associate of the Aryan Cowboys. The Aryan Cowboys are a known prison gang out of Minnesota and Kentucky.

Your affiant further found out that on June 27, 2020 ——- was present during an incident in Stillwater Minnesota where a Muslim woman was racially harassed by a group of motorcycle club members wearing Aryan Cowboy leather vests. Carlson was photographed with this group.

In looking at a driver’s license photo of ——- and several booking photos, and comparing them to the photos of the “Umbrella Man,” there is a striking resemblance in the eye, nose bridge, and brow area. Also, of note is also a slight variation in ——- left eyebrow that is present in the photos of “Umbrella Man.” ——- is also approximately —– which also fits with the height of “Umbrella Man” on video and in screen shots as he walks along breaking out the windows and is approached by several people, “Umbrella Man” is taller than those around him.

So the underlying information in the search warrant application was double hearsay. The original declarant remains anonymous and unknown to the officer. We are unable to judge the credibility of the declarant except insofar as the facts tend to support the identification of Umbrella Man as set forth in the affidavit. It is based entirely on “a striking resemblance in the eye, nose bridge, and brow area” and “a slight variation in ——- left eyebrow that is present in the photos of ‘Umbrella Man.’” Oh, yeah, both Umbrella Man and the gentleman identified as Umbrella Man are tall.

The evidence set forth in the affidavit to support probable cause is thin. At best it amounts to a close call. There is nevertheless no evidence set forth to support the proposition that Umbrella Man had a hand in the torching of AutoZone. None. Zilch. Nada.

Law enforcement has had the benefit of the Umbrella Man suspect’s cell phone records for nearly seven months, yet no charges have been brought. He remains at large. According to the Minneapolis police, the investigation is continuing.

Officer Christensen, perhaps coincidentally, is “a frequent letter-writer to the Star Tribune” and the Minneapolis police department’s “rare ‘out’ liberal,” as she described herself in this 2019 Star Tribune column. See Christensen’s letters to the editor here (May 8, 2017) and here (March 25, 2019).

NOTE: I want to thank Star Tribune reporter Libor Jany for responding to my inquiries in connection with his July 28 story on the allegations of the search warrant application.

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