A resident of Tekle Sundberg’s apartment complex looks on as family members, friends and community members gather for a rally and march to demand justice for Sundberg on July 16. Sundberg was fatally shot by Minneapolis police after a roughly six-hour stand-off at his apartment on July 14
A resident of Tekle Sundberg’s apartment complex looks on as family members, friends, and community members gather on July 16 for a rally and march to demand justice for Sundberg. Credit: Tim Evans | MPR News

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This story comes to you from the Star Tribune through a partnership with Sahan Journal.

The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office said Wednesday that no charges will be filed for the fatal police shooting of a man during a standoff at his Minneapolis apartment building in July, finding that the officers involved were justified.

The County Attorney’s Office said it considered hundreds of hours of body-worn camera footage and other evidence obtained by the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) in connection with the death of 20-year-old Andrew Tekle Sundberg, and “based on that evidence and the law, and based on the totality of the circumstances known to law enforcement at the time, we have concluded that the officers’ use of deadly force was authorized,” a statement from the office read.

“Mr. Sundberg’s death was a tragedy,” County Attorney Mike Freeman said in a statement. “Our hearts go out to the family and friends of Mr. Sundberg. People who are suffering from mental health crises are vulnerable, and encounters between those in crisis and law enforcement must be handled with special care. In this case, tragic as it is, the officers’ use of deadly force was legally authorized under Minnesota law.”

Cindy Sundberg, Tekle’s mother, told the Star Tribune Wednesday morning that, “We are heartbroken that the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office chose to provide our family with this devastating news right before Christmas, as we were already grieving Tekle’s absence.

Tekle Sundberg’s friends remember him as a deeply caring friend who always made them laugh and helped them through mental health crises, even as he struggled with depression. Credit: Courtesy Sundberg family

“Our hearts are broken. We were trying so hard to make it through the holidays without Tekle, to hold it together and make it special for our grandchildren and family. But they decided to add yet another layer to our grief. It’s like they pulled the scab off our wound and cut around it making it deeper. Trauma reborn and intensified. This will be our new Christmas memory.”

She also expressed disappointment that the report “wholly adopts the officers’ version of events without clear supporting evidence during the critical time when the officers chose to shoot Tekle. We look forward to receiving and reviewing the evidence for ourselves, so that there can be full transparency and accountability.”

Minneapolis police went to Sundberg’s apartment in the 900 block of S. 21st Avenue late on July 14 after a neighbor called 911 to report multiple gunshots being been fired into her unit, where she lived with two small children.

A police spokesman said at the time that officers took steps to peacefully resolve the situation, including calling the parents to the scene to help talk to Sundberg, but he refused to cooperate.

Police body camera video released less than a week after the shooting showed a chaotic scene in which Minneapolis officers rescued a mother and her two young children as Sundberg repeatedly fired a gun into their apartment from inside his nearby unit during a mental health crisis.

Hours into the standoff, segments of body-camera footage showed officers Aaron Pearson and Zachary Seraphine in sniper positions saying “gun” before firing the two shots. In the 39-page report released by the attorney’s office, Pearson stated that Sundberg threatened to shoot and kill officers after yelling, “I’m an international terrorist.”

Pearson and Seraphine believed that Sundberg was going through a mental health crisis, but saw him approach his apartment window with a gun in hand. Sundberg broke through holes in his window made by 40-millimeter rounds that other officers fired earlier and aimed his gun toward officers on the ground, the report said. That’s when Pearson and Seraphine fired.

“[Officer Pearson] strongly and confidently felt that if [he] would have waited any longer than that precise moment, that the suspect would have fired directly at officers,” the report read.

“At the precise moment [Officer Seraphine] pulled the trigger [he] was in fear for the life and safety of all civilians and officers in the area. This was a very dangerous situation, and the threat needed to be stopped. Had [he] hesitated even the slightest bit, anyone in the area could have been seriously injured or killed.”

Wednesday’s announcement took pains to explain when peace officers are authorized to use deadly force, including when officers find it necessary to protect themselves or others from “death or great bodily harm” that is likely to occur absent any action by law enforcement.

“It is not possible to know Mr. Sundberg’s intentions or exact mental state,” the statement read, “but those are not determinative in this legal analysis. Instead, we must analyze the use of deadly force based only on what an objectively reasonable officer in the officers’ positions would have known or perceived, and not on what Mr. Sundberg’s intentions may have been.”

Freeman’s office making this determination alone breaks his office’s 2 12-year practice of using outside prosecutors when reviewing deaths at the hands of police in the county. A spokesman for Freeman declined to explain the shift in approach.

The office of state Attorney General Keith Ellison led the prosecution of Derek Chauvin, Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng, and Thomas Lane for the May 2020 murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. All but Thao have been convicted, whose case awaits a bench verdict.

Ellison’s office also argued the case against Kimberly Potter, who fatally shot Daunte Wright during a traffic stop in Brooklyn Center in April 2021 and was convicted.

Dakota County Attorney Kathryn Keena took on the shooting of Dolal Idd in December 2020 at a Minneapolis gas station and concluded the officers were justified in their actions. Freeman’s office teamed with Ellison’s prosecutors and an independent investigator before finding that a Minneapolis SWAT officer acted legally when he shot Amir Locke in a downtown apartment in January 2022.

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Paul Walsh is a general assignment reporter at the Star Tribune.

St. Paul police reporter at the Star Tribune.