Lore-Elisabeth Blumenthal is a 33-year-old massage therapist accused in the arson of two Philadelphia police cars during the George Floyd protests. She was tracked down by the FBI using her peace tattoo and Etsy and LinkedIn profiles.
The FBI used Blumenthal’s social media to help identify her and they traced her Etsy T-shirt to the store where she bought it, a criminal complaint alleges. United States Attorney William M. McSwain announced that Lore-Elisabeth Blumenthal, 33, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania has been charged by criminal complaint for the arson of two Philadelphia Police Department (PPD) vehicles.
“The defendant is currently in federal custody…The government will be filing a motion for the defendant to be detained pending trial,” the U.S. Department of Justice wrote in a press release.
You can read the full criminal complaint charging Blumenthal here. The arsons occurred on May 30.
“Masses of people took to the streets of Philadelphia on May 30, exercising their right to peacefully protest,” said Michael J. Driscoll, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division. “They were there to send a message in which they truly believed. Sprinkled among the crowd, though, were agitators, whose sole purpose was to commit crimes and cause chaos. As alleged, Blumenthal came prepared for just that, carrying out these arsons that destroyed property and put many lives at risk. Sadly, such acts also hijacked the message of the day’s demonstrators, whose calls for change were obscured for a time by the smoke from all those fires. Working with our law enforcement partners, the FBI is committed to bringing to justice those responsible for violent acts during the otherwise peaceful protests in Philadelphia.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Authorities Allege that Blumenthal ‘Set Fire’ to a Philadelphia Police Sedan & SUV Using a Flaming Piece of Wooden Police Barricade
Following peaceful protests in the early afternoon of May 30, 2020 in response to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, “civil unrest began to unfold later that afternoon in Philadelphia that resulted in widespread looting, burglary, arson, destruction of property, and other violent acts,” the DOJ wrote in a news release.
“On that day, two vehicles, one PPD sedan (number 2514) and one PPD sport utility vehicle (number 1612), were parked on the north side of City Hall in Philadelphia. During the violent episodes that began around City Hall that afternoon, Blumenthal allegedly set fire to both vehicles.”
According to the complaint, Blumenthal’s actions were captured on video. She was seen wearing a mask and a blue T-Shirt. She also had a peace sign tattoo. These items would prove instrumental in tracking her down.
“Various videos taken at the scene captured the defendant wearing protective goggles and gloves, taking a flaming piece of wooden police barricade from the rear window of the PPD sedan that was already on fire, and then shoving the flaming wood into the PPD SUV that was not on fire. Within minutes, the PPD SUV was also completely engulfed in flames. As result of the fires, both PPD vehicles were destroyed,” the release states.
2. Authorities Used Social Media to Identify Blumenthal
Authorities wrote in the complaint that they witnessed a feed from a news helicopter that was covering the destruction of the police vehicles. A white female, in a blue T-shirt and jeans, was wearing a brown-green backpack, grey gloves, a multi-colored mask, and black boots.
Authorities were able to obtained freezes of frames from the news video to establish a general description of gender, race, clothing and accessories of the woman.
Next, investigators viewed a picture of the woman posted to Instagram.
Police magnified and cropped an image from an Instagram photo and noticed a “tattoo of a stylized peace sign on her right forearm,” the complaint says.
The FBI next obtained 500 photos from another amateur photographer and they found photos of the woman without the multi-colored mask covering her face. These photos showed that her shirt read, “Keep the immigrants, deport the racists.”
She was wearing flame-retardant gloves and protective goggles that the FBI believed indicated “intent and planning to engage” in activities that could potentially hurt her hands or eyes, including arson,.
Next, authorities identified the Etsy store that sold the distinctive T shirt. The FBI noticed that a Philadelphia user had written a five-star review stating, “fast shipping, thanks very much.”
That led to a profile called Alleycatlore which returned a Poshmark page with a display named “lore-elisabeth.”
That in turn led to a LinkedIn page for Lore Elisabeth that said she was employed as a massage therapist with a company that provides massage therapy services. That company had posted multiple massage therapy videos that included a woman who appeared to match the driver’s license photo of Blumenthal. The tattoo was observed.
Authorities were able to get Etsy records via subpoena from the T-shirt seller (not Etsy itself) to confirm the T-shirt was shipped to Lore Elizabeth in Philadelphia.
3. She’s the Daughter of a Former German Poetry Professor From a Local University
The 2012 obituary of Blumenthal’s father, Bernhardt “Bernie” Blumenthal, says that he was “a graduate of LaSalle University who chaired the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures there for more than 40 years and wrote poetry in German.” The obit appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer.
“He was a magnificent teacher and a great editor,” said Leo Rudnytzky, a friend of the father, to the newspaper. “He was a consummate stylist with great editorial skills. His great love was German poetry.”
He was born in Philadelphia, the son of Bernhardt and Rosemary Blumenthal, and died of cancer. The obit says that Lore-Elisabeth has two sisters, a brother, and a stepbrother. Her parents were described as divorced.
4. The U.S. Attorney Called the Act ‘Violent’ & ‘Despicable’>
Authorities condemned the act.
“We at the U.S. Attorney’s Office fully support the First Amendment right of the people to assemble peaceably and to petition their government. But torching a police car has nothing to do with peaceful protest or any legitimate message. It is a violent and despicable act that will be prosecuted in this District to the fullest extent of the law,” said U.S. Attorney McSwain. “Anybody who engaged in such acts can stand by to put your hands behind your back and head to federal prison. We are coming for you.”
“During the past several weeks, multitudes of people peacefully and lawfully exercised their First Amendment right to protest,” said Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw. “However, there were individuals who chose to use the protests as an opportunity to engage in criminal activity. Some of these individuals’ actions were malicious, destructive, and could have resulted in critical injuries to others. We are privileged to have worked, and will continue to work, with our partners in law enforcement to investigate, identify and hold accountable the persons who committed these unlawful acts.”
“Our communities deserve to be safe from these types of violent crimes,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge John Schmidt. “Everybody deserves to be safe from violent criminals utilizing dangerous methods to destroy our neighborhoods and property. ATF will always work with our local, state and federal partners to investigate and arrest the criminals who choose to use arson to commit their crimes and terrorize the public.”
5. If Convicted, Blumenthal Faces Up to 80 Years in Prison
If convicted, the defendant “faces a maximum possible sentence of 80 years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, and a fine of up to $500,000,” the release.
“Homeland Security Investigations fully respects the rights of all people to voice their opinion without interference, including through peaceful assembly and protest,” said Brian A. Michael, Special Agent in Charge for HSI Philadelphia. “Unfortunately, a number of protestors enticed violence that resulted in destruction of property throughout the City of Philadelphia. In instances like these, HSI works closely with federal, state, and local law enforcement partners to ensure those who inflict damage that impacts the safety and security of our community are held accountable.”
The complaint adds that the “case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Homeland Security Investigations, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, the Philadelphia Police Department and the Philadelphia Fire Marshal’s Office, with assistance from the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, and is being prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.”