An Illinois man who came to Minneapolis to riot over the weekend livestreamed himself handing out explosives, destroying property and appearing to set a Sprint store on fire, according to charges filed in the U.S. District Court of Minnesota on Monday afternoon.
Matthew Lee Rupert, 28, is charged with civil disorder, possession of unregistered explosives and participating in and organizing riots, making him the first to face federal prosecution for allegedly taking part in the fires, looting and other violence that engulfed the Twin Cities since the death of George Floyd in police custody.
Last Thursday night, Rupert, of Galesburg, Ill., posted on his public Facebook page an invitation for "goons" to join him in traveling to Minneapolis, where he said he was renting hotel rooms and planned to wreak havoc and "take hella good videos."
The livestreamed videos, cited as evidence by FBI investigators in the complaint, show his role in the riots on Friday night and early Monday, including distributing explosives and then announcing, "He's throwing my bombs ... they're going to bomb the police with them."
"Good shot, my boy," he shouted after one of the explosions, according to the complaint. "We came here to riot," he declared later.
Later in the night, Rupert asked for lighter fluid and entered a Sprint store, according to the complaint. "I lit it on fire," he said, before entering an Office Depot and stealing items from it.
In the comments section of one video, viewed more than 4,000 times, several people criticize Rupert for his actions.
"If writing a bad check gets you killed, how do you think this guy will end up," writes one, a reference to the reason Minneapolis police originally detained Floyd after a clerk reported that he tried to pass a counterfeit bill.
"Nothing like snitching on yourself like a Facebook live video," writes another.
"I love all my haters lmao," comments Rupert.
Another image posted to Facebook shows a blistered hand, under the caption, "I tried to pick up a tear gas bomb!"
On Saturday night, Rupert posted to Facebook his plans to return to Chicago and riot there. "[Let me know] who's on board I got cars we got this," he wrote, updating later that he would arrive in Chicago in two hours.
More videos show Rupert walking through Chicago hollering to people he seems to know as they drove by. In one 10-minute video, he stops in front of what appears to be a darkened cafe with a broken window.
"There's gotta be a register in there," he says. Then, spotting one, he urges someone to go in after it, and a person jumps through the broken window as glass rains down behind him. The camera moves inside, then quickly back outside. A moment later, it continues in what appears to be the inside of a smoke shop.
Videos show him proclaiming, "Let's start a riot" and "I'm going to start doing some damage," according to the complaint.
The charges say Rupert crossed state lines to participate in the riot, which makes it a federal crime. Chicago police officers arrested him at 2:21 a.m. They searched his car and recovered several "destructive devices," along with a heavy-duty flashlight, hammer and cash, according to the charges.
In a telephonic hearing Monday afternoon, a judge ordered his transfer to Minnesota to face future case proceedings. When the judge read his charges, Rupert appeared surprised at the count related to illegal explosives.
"A firework? I don't know, ma'am," he said.
A spokeswoman for the Minnesota U.S. Attorney's Office said that, while it will continue to pursue charges against rioters, their top priority will remain on the civil rights investigation into the events surrounding the death of Floyd.
Staff writer Dan Browning contributed to this report.