A viral photo making the rounds on social media that purportedly shows Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin in a red hat that reads “Make Whites Great Again” is fake and is actually showing a man notorious for online trolling and his support of Donald Trump.
The fake photo has fueled already flaring racial tensions in the wake of the George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis on Monday. The video showed Chauvin with his knee pressed against the neck of Floyd, who lay motionless on the ground and said that he could not breathe. Chauvin kept his knee in place for several minutes after Floyd became unresponsive, and the suspect was declared dead a short time later.
As demonstrations took place across Minneapolis and local officials called on the FBI to launch an investigation into the killing, the picture that many claimed showed Chauvin wearing a hat with a racially charged message only added to tensions. But as many pointed out, the photo actually shows a man named Jonathan Lee Riches, who has gained notoriety as an online troll and supporter of Donald Trump.
The man on the right isn’t Derek Chauvin. He isn’t a cop. He is Jonathan Lee Riches, a notorious con man, troll and prankster, not to mention the "world's most litigious man." Riches injects himself, indefensibly, into tragic news events, even if it means going to prison. https://t.co/Y66mXihrYB
— Luke O'Brien (@lukeobrien) May 27, 2020
Riches had been featured in a profile for HuffPost that described him as a provocateur, who once wore a “Jews for Trump” shirt to the president’s rallies and said he dreamed about getting into confrontations for it.
“I sometimes have visions of potential confrontations with Proud Boys, or with white supremacists, or with some other Trump supporter who might not appreciate having Jews around,” Rich told the New Yorker, via HuffPost, “but it’s never happened. To be honest, everyone I meet at the rallies feels like family.”
Chauvin himself is facing national outrage, with many calling for him to be arrested for the actions that led to Floyd’s death. He has already been fired by the Minneapolis police department, along with the three other officers on the scene at the time of the incident, but none are facing charges.
Chauvin has been under investigation for violent incidents in the past. As The Daily Mail reported, he came under investigation for his involvement in a 2008 shooting at a call for a domestic assault. Chauvin and two other officers reportedly forced their way into the home of Latrell Toles, which led to a pursuit. Chauvin claimed that Toles tried to grab the officer’s gun, leading Chauvin to reportedly shoot the suspect in the torso. There were no charges for Chauvin or the other officers involved in that incident.