Brian Bartels, the 20-year-old man who police say turned a protest into a riot on Saturday in Pittsburgh, turned himself in to law enforcement Monday — escorted by his mom and dad. He faces charges of institutional vandalism, rioting, and reckless endangerment of another person, according to police.
Law enforcement had been investigating the destruction of a police SUV over the weekend that had been spray-painted and then set on fire during the demonstrations. After receiving an anonymous tip from a co-worker identifying Bartels as the culprit, police executed a search warrant at his home. During the search they found two guns, six spray paint cans, gloves, and the sweatshirt that the suspect had been wearing during the protest, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.
A video had also surfaced showing a young white male smashing the police SUV’s windows and tagging it with spray paint. In the video, the suspect, believed to be Bartels, can be seen dressed in all-black Antifa-like gear. A woman attempted to stop Bartels from causing damage to the SUV, but Bartels flipped her off in refusal and continued to smash that SUV’s windows.
In the tweet of Bartels turning himself into police custody, Jason Howerton refers to him as an “Antifa kid” because his dress and actions were characteristic of the group’s members. But an official link between Bartels and Antifa has not been established.
Pittsburgh Public Safety reported Sunday that 60 businesses and other properties were damaged and 44 arrests were made as a result of Saturday’s protests. Police believe that Bartels’ actions, which took place at around 4:30 p.m. Saturday, turned the protests into a violent riot.
During a news conference, Pittsburgh Police Chief Scott Schubert called it a “damn shame” that Antifa-like rioters were taking advantage of the protests.
“I am so angry at the fact that some segment hijacked this and then took some of the youth and brought them into the mix,” Schubert said. “There’s no doubt that that’s who’s doing it and a lot of things we’re seeing are white males, dressed in the anarchist, ANTIFA, they’re ones who are fueling a lot of this. It’s just a damn shame that they took advantage of the situation, for something, something happened in another state where somebody died who shouldn’t have died, and they hijacked that message for their own.”