A Hennepin County judge issued an emergency protection order for a man who helped Minneapolis police uncover an arsenal of guns and bomb-making devices during a routine arrest.
The restraining order was filed this week against Majid Al Rifahe, who was arrested with his brother, Abdullah Al Rifahe, about 5 p.m. May 11 after the men threatened a passerby who confronted them for littering. Inside the men’s car, officers found a hand grenade, handgun, assault rifles and magazines and a large quantity of ammunition, according to a criminal complaint against the brothers. They also found cellphones, computers and electronics equipment, including drone parts.
Bomb squad personnel called to the scene noted that the large amount of ammunition and electronic devices could be used for bomb-making, the complaint said. The weapons were confiscated, and Majid Al Rifahe, 26, was cited for misdemeanor assault and disorderly conduct and released.
Abdullah Al Rifahe, 27, was charged with felony carrying a pistol in public without a permit, and remains in jail in lieu of $200,000 bail. He was convicted of the same crime in December, and was released from jail just a few months before the north Minneapolis incident.
Less than a week after the incident, Majid Al Rifahe drove through the north Minneapolis neighborhood where he had been arrested. He spotted the same pedestrian, a 62-year-old man with physical disabilities, walking down a street. The Star Tribune is not identifying the man.
Al Rifahe pulled his car on the wrong side of the street to get closer to the man and was staring at him the whole time, the restraining order said. Al Rifahe was also rubbing his hands together that sent a message he was going to hurt the man, the order said.
Joe Tamburino, the attorney who is representing the good Samaritan on the restraining order pro bono, also plans to get a similar action against Abdullah Al Rifahe. Tamburino said he can’t understand why there isn’t more public outrage over what he called a very serious case.
“If this happened in New York City, it would be national news,” he said. “Instead, we have radio silence.”
The local offices of the FBI and Department of Homeland Security referred questions to the Minneapolis Police Department, which is part of the Joint Terrorism Task Force. In a statement, Chief Janeé Harteau lauded the passerby and officers, “whose great work led to our awareness of a potential threat and the original arrests.”
“At this point, there is no evidence to suggest the public is in any imminent danger,” Harteau said. “This remains an open and ongoing investigation and MPD officers continue to actively, aggressively investigate this case.”
According to police, the man walked by a parked car May 11 and confronted the Al Rifahe brothers after they threw food wrappers on the ground. They ignored him until he paused to get the car license number, and started yelling racial slurs at the man. The brothers then got out of the car and indicated they had guns, court documents said.
He flagged down officers, but the brothers continued to yell at him from inside the car and resisted the officers’ attempts to control the situation. They were insistent they needed to be near the car because a drone was coming to deliver a package, the complaint said. Because of the suspicious circumstances and fear for the man’s safety, the brothers were placed in the squad while officers searched their car.
That’s when officers found the cache of weapons and bomb-making devices.
“They weren’t going to a drone convention,” said Tamburino. “My client was just doing the right thing, and then he faces hateful, vile speech and threats against his safety. Thank God he stayed and called the police.”
When he learned about the case, he wanted to ensure the man had some protection against the Al Rifahe brothers. In the restraining order, the man told the judge that he no longer felt safe leaving his home and bought a new cellphone.
“I am extremely fearful,” he told the judge.
David Chanen • 612-673-4465