‘Boogaloo Boi’ charged in fire of Minneapolis police precinct during George Floyd protest

Lois Beckett and agency
<span>Photograph: Julio Cortez/AP</span>
Photograph: Julio Cortez/AP

A rightwing extremist boasted of driving from Texas to Minneapolis to help set fire to a police precinct during the George Floyd protests, federal prosecutors said.

US attorney Erica MacDonald said on Friday that she had charged Ivan Harrison Hunter, a 26-year-old Texas resident, with traveling across state lines to participate in a riot. The charges are the latest example of far-right extremists attempting to use violence to escalate national protests against police brutality into an uprising against the government, and even full civil war.

The case also reveals the extent of the coordination between violent members of the nascent far-right “Boogaloo Bois” movement operating in different cities across the country.

Related: How Facebook and the White House let the 'boogaloo' movement grow

According to the criminal complaint against Hunter, on 26 May, as intense protests broke out in Minneapolis over the killing of George Floyd by a city police officer, a “Boogaloo Boi” based in Minnesota posted a public Facebook message: “I need a headcount.”

Hunter, a resident of Boerne, Texas, which is roughly 1,200 miles away, responded: “72 hours out.”

Another “Boogaloo Boi”, based in North Carolina, posted a public message the same day: “Lock and load boys,” he wrote, adding, “the national network is going off.”

“Boogaloo” has long been used on online message boards as an ironic term for a second civil war, one that might be sparked by any government attempts to confiscate Americans’ guns. But in 2019 and early 2020, the memes about a coming “boogaloo” began to coalesce into an anti-government, pro-gun movement, with armed “Boog bois” showing up at protests, some wearing the “Boogaloo” uniform of a bright Hawaiian shirt paired with a military-style rifle.

In the late winter and early spring of 2020, researchers noted a growing number of “Boogaloo” groups on Facebook, many of them posting explicitly about military tactics and killing government officials, as well as the proliferation of “Boogaloo”-themed merchandise for sale, such as flags, patches, and Hawaiian-print gun accessories.

Prosecutors say that Hunter would later describe himself to Austin police officers as “the leader of the Boogaloo Bois in south Texas”.

By 28 May, during a night of the most intense unrest and destruction in the city, Hunter was in Minneapolis, just as the 3rd precinct police station, known locally as a “playground for renegade cops”, was being set on fire.

Video shot that night shows a person later identified as Hunter firing 13 rounds from a semiautomatic assault-style rifle on the 3rd precinct police station while people believed to be looters were inside. He then high-fived another person and shouted, “Justice for Floyd!” according to the complaint.

Later, he privately messaged Steven Carrillo, another alleged “Boogaloo Boi” in California, urging him to “go for police buildings”, according to the federal criminal complaint.

“I did better, lol,” Carrillo allegedly replied.

Hours before Carrillo sent that message, according to the complaint, federal prosecutors say Carrillo had driven to Oakland with an accomplice, and, as protesters were demonstrating blocks away, shot two officers guarding a federal courthouse in downtown Oakland, killing one, David Patrick Underwood.

Carrillo was later charged with killing another law enforcement officer, a Santa Cruz sheriff’s deputy, in an ambush attack in June.

According to the complaint, Hunter would later post multiple messages on Facebook bragging of his actions in Minneapolis on the night of 28 May and morning of 29 May, writing, “I set fire to that precinct with the Black community,” and, “My mom would call the FBI if she knew.”

“I’ve burned police stations with Black Panthers in Minneapolis,” he claimed in one message, and in another, “The BLM protesters in Minneapolis loved me.”

Police in Austin, Texas, stopped a pickup truck, in which Hunter was a passenger, on 3 June for multiple traffic violations. Hunter had six loaded magazines for a semiautomatic rifle in a tactical vest he was wearing. Officers also found multiple firearms in the truck.

Several days after the stop, federal agents learned of Hunter’s online affiliation with Carrillo. MacDonald said Hunter made his initial court appearance on Thursday in San Antonio, Texas. It is unclear if he has an attorney.

Hunter is the third alleged “Boogaloo Boi” to be charged in connection with protests in Minneapolis. Across the country, the “Boogaloo” movement has been linked to more than two dozen arrests and at least five deaths this year, including the alleged plot to kidnap the Michigan governor, Gretchen Whitmer.