Brian Bartels, the 20-year-old man who Pittsburgh police had earlier said was a catalyst for rioting in the city, turned himself in today. He arrived with his parents and didn’t respond to a reporter who asked if he had anything to say.

Pittsburgh police wanted Bartels in connection with vandalism and destruction of a police vehicle. This Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story describes what Bartels allegedly did based on the police account of the incident:

According to the police account, the man they identified as Mr. Bartels pulled a can of orange or red spray paint from a backpack and tagged the SUV.

The crowd cheered, and someone else jumped on the hood. Mr. Bartels, who is white, kicked the police vehicle and then threw something that broke the window, the complaint said.

A black woman “stepped in front of Bartels and pleaded for him to stop, he gave her the finger and then jumped on the car hood and stomped the windshield (breaking it further),” according to the complaint.

The crowd cheered. Mr. Bartelss jumped down, “retrieved additional items to throw and continued throwing at the police car. Some individuals from the crowd attempted to stop him,” the complaint said. “As Bartels continued his destruction the crowd fought back against him less and more people began to join him in damaging the car.”

Police on horseback saw what was happening and moved in to stop the violence from escalating. But Bartels had riled up the crowd and so when the police arrived it turned into a shoving match. Police were apparently ordered to move away and once they did, the crowd moved in and further vandalized the police SUV, setting it on fire:

Bartels isn’t blamed for torching the SUV, just for the initial vandalism and for inciting the crowd that eventually did destroy it. Police and FBI served a search warrant at his home over the weekend. No one was home so police broke in and found clothing items Bartels had worn during the protest.

On Saturday, Pittsburgh Police Chief Scott Schubert said he was “angry” about the violence that broke out at what had been a peaceful protest. He specifically blamed that on a contingent of anarchists:

“I’m willing to bet my check that there’s a lot of people who are anarchists, who, they’re not here to protest what happened, they’re not here to protest what happened, they’re here to take advantage of situations and throw it their way and bring other people into the mix and cause damage and cause injury,” Cheif Schubert added. “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.”

Today, Pittsburgh’s mayor repeated the claim that a group of anarchists had been hijacking protests around the country:

Mayor Bill Peduto said he has talked to mayors in cities across the country who have all seen a parallel pattern of behavior throughout the recent protests.

“When I talk to mayors across this country, the same thing is happening in city after city,” Mr. Peduto said. “This group are anarchists, and their mission is destruction. It is part of their mission: chaos and destruction. To just throw the table over for the sake of throwing the table over.”

The city’s public safety director, Wendell Hissrich, said an investigation hadn’t firmly determined which groups were responsible but he is hoping Bartels can help them:

“I don’t think we have yet a firm knowledge as to whether or not the individuals here are associated to the groups,” he said. “We’re making that assumption, but we’re too early into the investigation to determine that.”

Mr. Hissrich said police were looking at video to examine the way the rioters were dressed, how they operated and the type of weapons they used. He said he hopes Brian J. Bartels — a 20-year-old Shaler man who police allege was the catalyst in a protest that turned violent outside PPG Paints Arena — will be able to provide some insight to investigators.

Bartels has been charged with institutional vandalism, rioting and reckless endangerment so he could be facing jail time. It would certainly be interesting if he decided to flip and inform on other anarchists. The police said today that after burning the SUV a group was moving toward a nearby police precinct. Police believe they intended to burn it down, similar to what happened in Minneapolis, but they were stopped by police who were monitoring their movements.

Was there a larger plan involved here or is Bartels just one anarchist doing his thing?

I guess we’ll have to wait and see, but I wonder if it’s not a mix of both. Anarchists may have had certain targets in mind, but at some point maybe Bartels was just freelancing a bit to get a reaction from the crowd. Some of these guys remind me of school shooters. They have a similar anti-social attitude. A desire to inflict damage. And perhaps most importantly, a desire to make a splash in the media through violent behavior. I think that, rather than a national steering committee, may wind up explaining why so many of these losers have crawled out of the woodwork in response to saturation media coverage of riots.

What we do know for sure is that the riots in Pittsburgh have already done a lot of damage. CBS Pittsburgh reports today that approximately 70 businesses have been vandalized and many more are boarding up to avoid being looted.