CHICAGO (CBS) — A Chicago Police officer wore a mask bearing the logo of a right-wing militia group known as the “Three Percenters” while on duty at a downtown protest Saturday.
Still frames from video shot by CBS 2 shows a Chicago Police Department (CPD) officer wearing a black face mask with the logo — the roman numeral three surrounded by a ring of stars — while standing among a group of officers near the LaSalle Street bridge Saturday afternoon. The officer’s name tag and badge number, which can be seen in video, identify him as Kyle Mingari, a 13-year veteran of CPD.
According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which studies extremist groups, the Three Percenters is a militia group that first appeared around 2009. Their logo, which Mingari is seen sporting on his face mask, “has become very popular among anti-government extremists,” according to the ADL. The ADL confirmed to CBS 2 that the logo was in fact a Three Percenters symbol.
“ADL is deeply disturbed by the apparent display of the ‘three percenter’ symbol by an on-duty Chicago police officer this weekend,” ADL Midwest regional director David Goldenberg said in a statement emailed to CBS 2. “Three Percenters are a wing of the anti-government movement, some of whom have engaged in violence in the past. We call on the Chicago Police Department to immediately investigate this matter and take corrective measures. Law enforcement agencies must ensure that officers tasked with protecting all communities don’t use or display hateful rhetoric and symbols and do not hold affiliations with extremist groups.”
Goldenberg spoke further with CBS 2’s Charlie De Mar.
“It’s especially troubling and concerning when we see it displayed by a police officer in full uniform at a protest,” Goldenberg said.
Also concerning to the ADL is that the video shows other officers – including a higher-ranking one in a white shirt – standing around.
“Either they were unaware, or they were aware and didn’t report it,” Goldenberg said.
The term “three percenters” refers to what the ADL called an “erroneous” belief that only three percent of colonists fought the British during the revolutionary war but won freedom for America as a whole. The Three Percenters believe they are “modern day versions of those revolutionaries, fighting against a tyrannical U.S. government rather than the British,” according to the ADL.
Members of the Three Percenters group have been linked to multiple right-wing terror plots in recent years.
In 2017, 23-year-old Jerry Drake Varnell, who federal officials said supported the Three Percenters, was arrested for plotting to blow up a bank in downtown Oklahoma City.
In 2018, three men were charged in connection to the bombing of a Minnesota mosque. No one died in the explosion, but one of the men charged, a former sheriff’s deputy, had connections to the Three Percenters, according a report by the Center for Investigative Reporting.
And in 2011, a Georgia man inspired by an online novel written by the Three Percenters’ founder was charged with attempting to build a biological weapon using the highly lethal toxin Ricin.
Mingari has received at least 24 allegations of misconduct during his thirteen-year tenure as a Chicago Police Officer, according to data gathered by the Invisible Institute, which tracks allegations of Chicago Police misconduct. Only one of those allegations was “sustained,” meaning he was found responsible: a 2011 incident in which Mingari and two other officers allegedly strip searched a victim in public during a traffic stop without justification.
Mingari has also been the subject of several misconduct lawsuits, which have cost the city more than $400,000, according to court documents reviewed by CBS 2. In one case, in 2009, Mingari fired his gun at the driver of a van in the city’s Austin neighborhood, puncturing the driver’s lung. A jury found Mingari used excessive force and awarded the plaintiff $279,000, according to court documents. It’s unclear whether Mingari was disciplined by CPD for that shooting.
Video footage shot by CBS 2 also shows at least one higher-ranking officer was present while Mingari was wearing the mask. Only CPD sergeants and above wear white shirts, and at least one was standing feet away from Mingari at the protest.
CBS 2 sent CPD photos of Mingari wearing the mask and inquired about the presence of a superior officer.
“These symbols are not representative of the Department,” said CPD spokesperson Luis Agostini. “Members are prohibited from participating in any political activity while on duty or when in uniform, including wearing or displaying political paraphernalia. The Department has launched an investigation into this matter. If the investigation reveals that any violations of CPD policy have occurred, we will take the appropriate disciplinary action.”
Mingari isn’t the only law enforcement official caught wearing Three Percenters symbols while on duty at the recent protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of the Minneapolis police.
On June 3, the Orange County, California Sheriff’s Department announced they are investigating a deputy who wore patches bearing Three Percenters imagery to a protest there.
“That is highly problematic,” Goldenberg said. “They need to have a zero tolerance policy for that, and they shouldn’t be police officer.”