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Charges: Illinois man brought explosive devices to Minneapolis to encourage rioting

"I've got some bombs if some of you all want to throw them back," Rupert said on Facebook live, according to the complaint.
Credit: Ben Garvin, KARE
A man poses for a photo in front of a fire at a Wells Fargo location near the Fifth Precinct, May 29, 2020.

MINNEAPOLIS — An Illinois man has been federally charged with coming to Minneapolis to promote and engage in riots, bringing explosive devices with him.

U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota Erica MacDonald has charged 28-year-old Matthew Lee Rupert with civil disorder, carrying on a riot, and possession of "unregistered destructive devices."

This type of crime, when alleged to have been carried out over state lines, becomes a federal charge.

According to the criminal complaint filed against Rupert on Monday, the Galesburg, Illinois resident posted on Facebook May 28, "I'm going to Minneapolis tomorrow who coming only goons I'm renting hotel rooms."

On May 29, the complaint says Rupert went live on Facebook, where he can be seen passing out explosive devices in Minneapolis, encouraging others to throw them at officers, and appearing to light a building on fire and loot businesses.

Federal prosecutors say Rupert can be heard in the video saying, "They got SWAT trucks up there ... I’ve got some bombs if some of you all want to throw them back ... bomb them back ... here I got some more ... light it and throw it.” 

Early in the video, Rupert is heard saying, "we come to riot, boy, this is what we came for, and we got it."

Rupert is also seen on video entering a Sprint store and then saying "I lit it on fire," and then taking items from an Office Depot, according to the complaint.

At about 41 minutes into the over 2-hour-long video, the complaint says that Rupert says "Let's go f--- up the liquor store" and provides a tool to pry plywood boards loose.

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That Friday night, May 29, firefighters responded to 20 fire events, including nine structure fires across Minneapolis.

The complaint details other allegations of rioting after Rupert traveled to Chicago on May 30. After videos were posted showing him say "let's start a riot" and "I'm going to start doing some damage" early the morning of May 31 in Chicago, the complaint says Chicago police officers arrested him.

Officers searched Rupert's car and found several destructive devices, a hammer, a heavy-duty flashlight, and cash.

One of Rupert's associates told police that he traveled to Minneapolis with a "group of individuals" in order to "riot."

Rupert was later sentenced to 8 years, 9 months in prison and three years of supervised release for arson.

There has been much speculation over whether the people causing the most damage in the Twin Cities in the last week are from in town or are "outside agitators," a term authorities have used frequently.

Gov. Tim Walz had originally said up to 80% of those causing violence in the Twin Cities were from out of town. He said Monday that he was "out over (his) skis" when he estimated that.

"It was hard for me to fathom that this was coming internally," he said in a Monday news conference. "You cannot have that blind spot if that is amongst us and it's here."

Walz said the arrests are only one dataset, and they need to mine social media and other sources for information.

"We need to get a better understanding of this, of how deep this is," he said. "I say that not to, a conspiracy theory or something really big. We need to actually know who it was and who it is."

A KARE 11 investigation early on in the week found that the majority of people arrested in Minneapolis and St. Paul identified themselves to police as Minnesotans.

In St. Paul, arrest records from Sunday, May 30 to Monday, June 1 showed seven people who listed their city of residence as St. Paul, three in Austin, Minnesota, one in Maplewood, and 10 listed as "unknown."

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