US Attorney for the district of Minnesota, Erica MacDonald, has announced federal charges against a St. Paul man related to the arson fire at the Minneapolis Third Police Precinct in the early days of rioting following the death of George Floyd while in police custody in late May.
Branden Michael Wolfe, 23, has been charged with one count of aiding and abetting arson.
On the night of May 28, 2020, the Minneapolis Police Department’s Third Precinct was overrun and heavily damaged due to vandalism and arson during the riots in that city. Investigators subsequently identified multiple separate fires had been started in the building.
According to the allegations against Wolfe, on June 3, St. Paul police officers responded to a home improvement store in St. Paul after receiving a complaint that an individual, later identified as Wolfe, wearing body armor and a law enforcement duty belt and carrying a baton was trying to get into the store.
According to employees, Wolfe had been employed as a security guard at the Menards store but was fired earlier that day after referring to social media posts about stealing items from the Third Precinct. Officers located Wolfe and took him into custody. At the time of the arrest, Wolfe was wearing multiple items stolen from the Third Precinct, including body armor, a police-issue duty belt with handcuffs, an earphone piece, baton, and knife.
Wolfe’s name was handwritten in duct tape on the back of the body armor. Law enforcement later recovered from Wolfe’s apartment additional items belonging to the Minneapolis Police Department, including a riot helmet, 9mm pistol magazine, police radio, and police issue overdose kit.
On the night of May 28, a police scanner incident page had posted during the riots that looters were running out of the Third Precinct with police jackets and riot gear after the precinct had been overtaken.
Wolfe later admitted to investigators that he was inside the Third Precinct on the night of the arson, and he also admitted to taking property from the building, and to pushing a wooden barrel into the fire.
Wolfe also identified himself in multiple witness photographs depicting Wolfe him in front of the Third Precinct holding a police baton, with smoke and flames visible in the background.
Wolfe was scheduled to make his first court appearance in U.S. District Court in St. Paul on Wednesday.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives along with the FBI are still seeking photos, videos and information about any suspects involved in the arsons or other destructive acts during the riots in the Twin Cities.
Anyone with information specifically related to the Third Precinct fire or other business fires in the Twin Cities can call 1-888-ATF-TIPS (1-888-283-8477), email NGSGvcf@ngs.tbi or submit information anonymously via ReportIt.com. In addition to fires, the FBI is looking for people who may have incited or promoted violence of any kind. Anyone with digital material or tips can call 1-800-CALLFBI (800-225-5342) or submit images or videos at FBI.gov/violence.
Last week, federal charges were also announced against Matthew Lee Rupert, 28, who is accused of coming to Minnesota from Illinois and passing out explosives.
(Matthew Lee Rupert)
Rupert is accused of posting multiple videos on his Facebook account showing him engaged in and inciting violence. Rupert faces three counts including civil disorder, engaging in or promoting rioting, and possession of unregistered destructive devices.
On May 31, US Attorney General William Barr announced that he was treating the acts of arson and violence in Minneapolis and elsewhere at “domestic terrorism” and that he was launching investigations utilizing the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, which involves partnerships between multiple federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.
Stay with Alpha News for updates on additional state, local and federal charges as they develop.
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Minnesota Crime Watch & Information publishes news, info and commentary about crime, public safety and livability issues in Minneapolis, the Twin Cities and greater Minnesota