In search of Umbrella Man

Who can take a city, burn it to the ground? Umbrella Man can, at least according to the search warrant application/affidavit filed by Minneapolis police officer Erika Christensen in the summer of 2020.

Former Star Tribune reporter Libor Jany told me he came across Christensen’s affidavit in a routine review of court filings. (Libor has moved on to the Los Angeles Times.) Libor reported on the allegations of Christensen’s affidavit in his July 2020 story “Minneapolis police say ‘Umbrella Man’ was a white supremacist trying to incite George Floyd rioting.” The story made waves around the world.

According to Officer Christensen, Umbrella Man is a white supremacist who set off the week of riots and arson throughout the Twin Cities by knocking out the windows at AutoZone on Lake Street at Minnehaha Avenue in south Minneapolis on May 27. Did Umbrella Man also burn the AutoZone down? I can’t tell who burnt it down from Libor’s story, but it was in fact torched.

Libor quoted Christensen’s affidavit: “This was the first fire that set off a string of fires and looting throughout the precinct and the rest of the city.” Umbrella Man himself does not seem to have committed the arson that destroyed the AutoZone premises. Below is the tweet with the video featuring Umbrella Man at work.

Over two years later Umbrella Man has not been arrested. Charges have not been brought against him. Umbrella Man remains at large. Libor did not identify him in his July 28 story because he has not been charged.

Officer Christensen’s account of events was taken at face value in the numerous news accounts that immediately followed the Star Tribune story, but it is ludicrous. Spectator USA’s pseudonymous Cockburn conducted a reality check in “The curious Umbrella Man myth.” Subhead: “Cockburn hasn’t seen this many people excited about an umbrella since Mary Poppins hit theaters in 1964.” Cockburn drily noted in July 2020: “Cockburn would have thought that the carnage of the past month would render one man’s window smashing a historical footnote. But instead, the opposite has happened, for the usual 2020 reason: it is politically useful.”

I thought Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey was responsible for the key event that led to the destruction wrought throughout the Twin Cities following the death of George Floyd. The key event was the abandonment of the Third Precinct headquarters on May 28.

Mayor Frey too remains at large. His dereliction was not illegal.

Officer Christensen’s affidavit superimposed a mythical narrative over the events as we saw them unfold. Cockburn observed that it took him “just a single minute on Google to discover rioting and destruction from May 26 — the day before Umbrella Man supposedly kicked everything off.”

Whatever happened to Umbrella Man? He was identified by name and cell phone number in Officer Christensen’s affidavit. He appears to be a bad dude, but did he do more than is depicted in the video above?

There is a yearning on the left to attribute the wave of destruction that emanated from the Twin Cities to “white supremacy” or to “white supremacists.” The left-wing Minnesota Reformer site checked in on the case against Umbrella Man last year in Deena Winter’s story “What’s up with ‘Umbrella Man’?”

Winter reviewed the allegations regarding Umbrella Man, although she too withheld his identity because he had not been charged. Winter quoted Minneapolis Police spokesman John Elder: “It remains an open case and is still being investigated.” Elder refrained from any comment on whether the man listed in the search warrant is a suspect. “The investigator has not authorized the release of information on the case as this remains an open investigation,” Elder told Winter via email.

Winter said nothing about Officer Christensen. Perhaps coincidentally, Officer Christensen 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).

Now the FBI has issued a press release (with new photos) seeking the public’s help in identifying Umbrella Man. Minnesota Public Radio reports on it here. MPR’s Matt Sepic notes in his penultimate paragraph (link in the original): “In a 2020 search warrant, a Minneapolis police investigator [i.e., Christensen] identified the suspect as a Ramsey, Minn. man and alleged he was a ‘known associate’ of the Aryan Cowboys white supremacist gang. MPR News is not naming the man, now 34, because he was never arrested or charged.”

Sepic does not observe that the man whose identity he declines to disclose is apparently not Umbrella Man. The Minneapolis police and the FBI know his name his name and address. Libor Jany knows who he is, as does Sepic himself. The Star Tribune story by Stephen Montemayor doesn’t mention the paper’s knowledge of his identity, but they’re in on it too.

I infer that the Aryan Cowboy known to them is not Umbrella Man. I should think that would be news, but neither MPR nor the Star Tribune explicitly addresses this point.

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