A mysterious masked figure dubbed as "Umbrella Man," filmed smashing windows of auto parts store in Minneapolis, has been identified as a police officer by social media users who claim he provoked violence to justify the use of excessive force by police on rioters.
Who is the Umbrella Man?
As protests and unrest continued in Minneapolis following the killing of George Floyd, social media was abuzz with images and videos of a mysterious man filmed stirring up violence outside an Autozone. The white man, dressed in black clothing, was spotted calmly smashing windows of the store using a large hammer.
His face remained hidden with a tactical gas mask and was seen holding an open black umbrella even though it wasn't raining, earning him the nickname "Umbrella Man" on Twitter. The strange choice of attire for a warm day, the unwarranted use of an umbrella and the expensive-looking tactical gas mask led many to suspect he was planted to incite violence. The incident took place before the city erupted in flames.
Is he an Undercover Police Officer?
A popular theory that has gone viral is that the umbrella man is an undercover police officer who was there to encourage violence to start a widespread riot and justify the police's use of excessive force on protestors.
In video footage of the man circulating on social media, he can be seen unwilling to engage with other protestors and trying to walk away quickly when confronted. At one point, he even tries to snatch the phone away from the person filming him. "Are you a f---ing cop?" someone can be heard asking in the clip as the man swiftly walks away while refusing to answer questions or remove his mask.
Twitter users were quick to point out that the umbrella man bears a striking resemblance to Jacob Pedersen, a police officer from the neighboring city of St Paul.
Screenshots of a purported text message conversation shared between Pedersen's ex-fiancÃ© and a friend also surfaced on social media, fueling the theory that the umbrella man was an undercover cop who acted as a provocateur.
"We need to be aware of police purposefully creating violence just to give justification for future forceful reactionary measures. The narrative is ours and we must control it," commented a user.
St Paul Police Department Issues Statement
However, the St Paul Police Department dismissed the theory in a statement saying that the officer in question had an alibi and was on duty at the time of the incident.
"We are aware of the social media post that erroneously identifies one of our officers as the person caught on video breaking windows in Minneapolis," the tweet reads. "We've seen it. We've looked into it. And it's false."
Umbrella Man at JFK Assassination
Coincidentally, the term "Umbrella Man" also refers to a mysterious figure who was at Dealey Plaza on the day that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Louie Steven Witt was identified by the United States House Select Committee on Assassinations in 1978 as the man who opened and raised an umbrella as Kennedy was shot in his limousine on Nov. 22, 1963.
The umbrella man came under some suspicion after the Zapruder film revealed he was one of the people standing closest to the curb toward the president's motorcade, carrying an umbrella on a day when the sun was out. Conspiracy theorists of the time speculated the opening of the umbrella may have been a signal to the shooter.