Minneapolis police make arrest in 3rd Precinct arson, and … looks not so outsidery after all

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And none too bright, either. When Minneapolis and then Saint Paul went up in flames during the protests over the George Floyd homicide by police, both mayors and the state’s governor rushed to assure us that the riots were perpetrated by “outsiders.” Oddly enough, however, most of the arrests related to rioting have been of Minnesotans, a point that the Star Tribune noted in its slap at the state’s leadership on “misinformation.”

The first arrest in the most notorious of the arsons also looks like an inside job, so to speak. Police arrested Branden Wolfe of St. Paul, whose intellectual approach to the crime speaks for itself, too:

A St. Paul man has been charged in connection to the fires set at the Minneapolis Police Department’s Third Precinct during unrest in the city two weeks ago.

The United States Attorney’s Office has issued a federal criminal complaint against 23-year-old Branden Michael Wolfe. He has been charged with one count of aiding and abetting arson at the Third Precinct. …

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, was wearing body armor and a law enforcement duty belt while carrying a baton attempting to get into the store.

According to employees, Wolfe had been employed as a security guard at the 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 his arrest, Wolfe was wearing multiple stolen items from the Third Precinct, including body armor, a police-issued duty belt with handcuffs, an earphone piece, baton and a knife. Also, Wolfe’s name was handwritten in duct tape on the back of the body armor.

According to the indictment unsealed last night, Wolfe isn’t disputing the elements of the crimes. Not only did he pillage the 3rd Precinct, he helped set it on fire and got his picture taken doing it, the Star Tribune reports. He had also bragged about stealing items from the fire while working at Menards, which is what got him fired and prompted his colleagues to call the police.

Thus far his social-media footprint seems almost non-existent, except for a possible Facebook public page from four years ago that seems to be related to his high-school athletic career. A few old Twitter accounts that fit Wolfe’s description still exist but appear defunct, so it’s possible that Wolfe or someone else has seen fit to erase his social-media history. If so, it might be the first smart thing Wolfe has ever done.

Don’t believe that? Just ask his father, who remains “proud” of his son but says he has “zero common sense”:

Wolfe has been convicted of a petty-misdemeanor trespass charge and interfering with a 911 call, which is a gross misdemeanor. On the 911 case, charges of domestic assault, property damage, trespass and disorderly conduct were dismissed. He is on probation in that case until September 2021.

Wolfe’s father, Robert Wolfe of Macon, Ga., said he knew nothing of his son’s legal troubles or his political leanings. He said his son was raised by his mother and home-schooled in a suburb of Pensacola, Fla.

“He has grandiose ideas, a lot of them … and zero common sense,” Robert Wolfe said.

As for the alleged arson, he said, “I’m still proud of him, whether he burned down the police station or not. He didn’t hurt nobody, did he?”

The apple falleth not far from the tree, it seems. However, this does raise a couple of questions. First, it’s not easy to see what Wolfe’s politics might be, or whether he has any at all. With his track record, Wolfe’s motive might have just been personal animus against the police, let loose thanks to the general retreat of law enforcement, as well as the retreat by city and state government. It’s a reminder that law enforcement exists to establish safety and public peace against an array of nonsense, not all of it political or charming.

The second question is whether the feds are getting closer to the organized elements that set the Twin Cities on fire. Wolfe’s a rube — a dangerous rube when let off the leash, but a rube nonetheless. He probably couldn’t organize a game of charades, let alone the street action we saw during the riots. Would Wolfe know who did do the organizing? He’d better hope so, because unless the feds get bigger fish, Wolfe’s going to serve as the example by the Department of Justice.





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