To continue reading this article and others for free, please sign up for our newsletter.
Sahan Journal publishes deep, reported news for and with immigrants and communities of color—the kind of stories you won’t find anywhere else.
Unlock our in-depth reporting by signing up for our free newsletter.
Support local journalism that reflects Minnesota.
Your tax-deductible support will help us continue to provide honest and thorough journalism for Minnesota’s diverse communities.
Minneapolis police planned to use rubber bullets and gas to apprehend Tekle Sundberg, but SWAT team snipers instead fatally shot him without warning, new reports show.
On Wednesday, July 20, the city released Minneapolis Fire Department incident reports that explicitly logged the events leading up to Sundberg’s death on July 14. The reports were disclosed the same day the city released a compilation of police body camera footage that showed isolated parts of the six-hour standoff.
The incident reports appear to back up statements made last week by Sundberg’s parents, Cindy and Mark Sundberg, asserting that police had told them they would use less-lethal means to resolve the situation. Police called the Sundbergs to the scene to help assist in negotiations with their son.
The reports show that police used less-lethal 40 millimeter rounds, commonly called rubber bullets, to shoot out Sundberg’s third-floor apartment window; they also had a “gas plan” in place.
Some 13 minutes later, however, two Minneapolis police SWAT-team snipers–officers Aaron Pearson and Zachary Seraphine–fatally shot at Sundberg from a rooftop across the street. Police body-camera footage shows that the snipers fired without first warning their colleagues, who were on ground and closer to Sundberg.
The reports also show that in the immediate aftermath of the shooting, other first responders at the scene are uncertain who had fired the shots. “Possibly shot himself,” the reports say in reference to Sundberg before noting that the shots came from “Sierra.”
Mark Sundberg previously recalled receiving assurances from the police that, “‘We promise he won’t get shot.’” He added, “‘The only thing we’re going to use is rubber bullets,’ they said, and I was starting to believe them. I thought, ‘Maybe they’ve changed.’ But, no.”
The fire department reports are written in sentence fragments and collect accounts from multiple responders. They start at 9:34 p.m. on July 13, when a neighbor calls 911 about shots fired into her apartment; they document the fatal shooting of Sundberg at 4:18 a.m. on July 14; and they end three hours after a police chaplain visits the hospital where Sundberg was declared dead.
A 911 call brings the police; Minneapolis SWAT team follows
The reports say the incident at 904 21st Avenue South began with Sundberg firing gunshots into the apartment of a female neighbor—who says she had previously rejected his romantic overtures.
They describe a chaotic scene with the woman pleading with 911 dispatchers for help as Sundberg apparently fires off gunshots indoors. Negotiators and several officers arrive at the scene, including Minneapolis police’s SWAT team. Over the course of the standoff, Sundberg repeatedly leans out of his apartment window while music plays loudly, taking selfies at times, and ignores “numerous” phone calls from police negotiators.
A woman named Arabella Foss-Yarbrough has publicly identified herself as the 911 caller. Sahan Journal has reached out to Foss-Yarbrough several times but has not been able to speak to her about her experience. Her name also appears in the fire department reports.
According to the reports: Officers responding to Foss-Yarbrough’s call heard more gunshots from Sundberg’s apartment. Foss-Yarbrough tells 911 that her neighbor, Sundberg, “has been stalking her recently,” and later adds that he had asked her out “and been frustrated w/rejection previously.”
Officers report hearing shots fired in the building. A previous police news release recounted that officers later evacuated Foss-Yarbrough, her two young children, and the building’s tenants before police engaged in a standoff with Sundberg.
“Citizens leaving building,” the reports say at 9:46 p.m. July 13.
At 10 p.m., the reports note “appeared to be a handgun” without further explanation. A minute later, they say a shirtless Black man is holding a liquor bottle out a window “in other hand.”
“Male coming out window,” the reports say at 10:03 p.m. “Appears he might jump. Male has cell phone in hand. Appears to be taking a selfie.”
At 10:15 p.m. police attempt to speak to Sundberg through a door, and “the male responded by shooting through door,” the reports say. About 20 minutes later, a negotiator receives Tekle’s phone number, but at least one call goes directly to his voicemail.
Tekle yells at an armored police vehicle and appears to speak with a drone deployed nearby. He is “on phone with mom” at 11:41 p.m., the reports say without further detail.
Sundberg’s parents, Cindy and Mark Sundberg, have been critical of the police negotiations and the treatment they received from police at the scene. Cindy Sundberg has said police kept the couple at a distance from the scene, and, in communications with their son, only said “things that [police] told us to say.”
At 11:56 p.m. Sundberg hangs out his window and throws a mirror to the ground. A few minutes later, he stands on the window ledge and yells.
Police detail plans to use less-lethal force
The fire department reports show that police prepared to use less-lethal force to take control of the situation, and proceed with their plan for several hours. However, things take a sharp turn at the last minute.
At 12 a.m. on July 14, a note in the transcript reports that if Sundberg does not comply with verbal commands, less-lethal rounds (commonly called rubber bullets) will be used on him instead of a police dog.
“Arrest team does have less lethal,” the reports say. “[Officer] Chris is under cover on turret and is to deploy with priority.”
Sundberg’s parents attempt to call him at 12:20 a.m. “Calling non stop since 0023 [hours],” the report says. “SUBJ [subject] sending straight to VM [voicemail].”
His parents advise police that Sundberg has had a gun for six months.
“Sending video of dad to [subject],” the reports say at 12:53 a.m.
Throughout the encounter, Sundberg makes appearances at his window, but also goes deeper into his apartment.
At 2:04 a.m. Sundberg is “shutting window and pulling drapes … not responding to directions.” A police drone team had previously looked through the window and noticed that Sundberg’s front door was barricaded with multiple items.
Police change negotiators at 2:38 a.m., prompting Sundberg to turn the music in his apartment louder. Minneapolis police have previously said that Minneapolis police crisis-team negotiators and SWAT-team negotiators were on the scene. But the reports don’t specify which negotiators are speaking with Sundberg.
“Announcement will be made soon that the windows are going to be broken out,” the reports say at 3:27 a.m. “Will be using 40mm rounds until the [curtains] are down.”
Police fired “several” of the less-lethal 40-millimeter rounds through Sundberg’s window at 3:34 a.m. Police describe seeing Sundberg move around his apartment, and turn up his music.
“All personnel ensure you have gas masks with you,” the fire department reports say at 4:05 a.m. “Currently setting up a gas plan.”
“Information given to SUSP [suspect] from family that if OFCRS [officers] make entry SUSP [suspect] to lay down until given commands by officers,” the reports say at 4:08 a.m.
Sundberg threatens to shoot officers, reports say
In the minutes that follow, Sundberg appears to take selfies or videos at his window, goes back into his apartment, and reappears at the window with “some sort of object.”
At 4:16 a.m., Sundberg hangs out his window and speaks to someone on his cell phone. Two minutes later, according to the reports, he threatens to shoot officers and breaks the windows.
Shots fire at 4:18 a.m., and for a few seconds, the transcript suggests police are unsure of what’s happened. “Possibly shot himself,” the reports say. Soon after, however, the log notes that the shots came from “Sierra.”
Police body-camera footage captures audio of Pearson and Seraphine both saying, “Gun,” before they fire at Sundberg from a rooftop across the street. The footage does not show Sundberg being shot.
Sundberg moves and kicks at the wall or window after he’s shot, according to the fire department reports. Officers enter his apartment at 4:19 a.m. and medics start to render aid. Sundberg arrives at Hennepin Healthcare at 4:32 a.m., where he is pronounced dead.
The officers involved and witnesses relocate to Minneapolis police headquarters at City Hall, and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension arrives at the scene to investigate the shooting.
Five minutes before the last timed entry, at 8:42 a.m., July 14, authorities take note of “Small vigil OTS [outside] front/appears peaceful.”