More than a hundred community members joined Tekle Sundberg’s family and friends at a rally in Minneapolis’ Seward neighborhood Saturday to voice their outrage at Minneapolis police for killing him two days earlier.
Family members said Sundberg, 20, was having a mental health crisis in his apartment complex when two snipers with Minneapolis police’s SWAT team fatally shot him on July 14. The snipers–officers Aaron Pearson and Zachary Seraphine–were stationed on a rooftop across the street.
Minneapolis police were originally called to Sundberg’s building on the night of July 13 when a tenant called 911 to report that someone was firing gunshots into her unit, endangering her and her two young children. They evacuated the building and then engaged in a six-hour standoff with Sundberg before shooting him.
Sundberg’s family said Saturday that he preferred to go by Tekle Sundberg, not the name–Andrew Tekle Sundberg–that police released last week.
Sundberg’s sister, Kesley Sundberg, said Saturday that her brother was having a mental health crisis at the time. Sundberg was adopted from Ethiopia when he was 4, and was one of eight children in the Sundberg family, which includes biological children and several adopted children.
“A mental health crisis should not be a death sentence,” she said. “It doesn’t give police the right to perform an execution.”
Tekle’s family is requesting that police immediately release body camera footage to them.
In an unusual move, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, issued a news release Saturday asking for the public’s help investigating the shooting. The bureau investigates when police kill civilians on the job.
The bureau said it was that bystander had captured video of the shooting, adding that it has not seen the footage in its entirety. Parts of the video have been broadcast by local media.
“In the interest of conducting a thorough and complete investigation, the BCA is asking the person who filmed that video—along with anyone else who has pictures, video or audio recordings of the incident—to share them with investigators,” the bureau said.
Video, photos and audio can be submitted to the bureau here.
The bureau and Minneapolis police have not said what occurred in the moments leading up to Sundberg’s death.
The Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office also issued a news release Saturday stating that Sundberg died of multiple gunshot wounds.
Parents say police resisted their help
Sundberg’s parents, Mark and Cindy Sundberg, have retained national civil rights attorney Ben Crump and local attorney Jeff Storms. Crump represented the family of George Floyd, who was killed in 2020 when then-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for more than nine minutes.
Crump shared a video Friday to his Twitter account featuring the Sundberg family. The video, shot by local journalist Georgia Fort, said Sundberg was killed on his mother’s birthday. Police called Sundberg’s parents to the scene, 904 21st Avenue South, to assist in negotiations with their son.
“The police are portraying it and the mayor is portraying it like we collaborated and police were all kind and loving to our family as they tried to help Tekle,” Cindy Sundberg said in the video. “That is a lie. They were not.”
Cindy Sundberg, who is white, said she believes her son would still be alive if he was white like her biological children.
“Everyone knows had it been a white person in that building, they would have talked him out, they would have waited,” she said.
Mark Sundberg said in the video that he asked police if he could approach his son, but was denied. He also said police told him they would not shoot his son.
“We promise he won’t get shot,” Mark Sundberg recalled police telling him. “‘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.”
At Saturday’s rally, Kelsey Sundberg criticized a news release Minneapolis police issued the day of the shooting that said Sundberg’s parents helped negotiations “through phone calls, voice mails, and video messages.”
“Your statement made it seem as if you were collaborating with my parents,” Kelsey Sundberg said. “They were restricting their access to him. They would not let him close. My dad told them, he said, ‘I can end this. I can end this in 10 minutes.’
“They told my parents again and again they would not shoot. All the while, there were snipers on the roof. My parents were invited to the scene to see their son get helplessly executed, and you applauded that. How many more lives need to be lost while you work on your reform plan, [Mayor] Jacob Frey?”
In the video Crump shared Friday, Cindy Sundberg said police kept “us back in this little caged area” by a nearby Taco Bell and “would only let us answer–say things that they told us to say.”
Mark Sundberg said in the video that there were dozens of police at the scene, and that he wanted to approach his son’s apartment.
“If I could have gone to that door within the first ten minutes that we got there, this wouldn’t have happened,” Mark Sundberg said.
Mark and Cindy Sundberg also issued a written statement Friday through Crump’s office.
“First and foremost, we want the world to know that Tekle was deeply loved and that his family and friends are beyond shocked and grieving from these horrific events,” they said. “… Like millions in America and worldwide, Tekle struggled with his mental health. While we have received very little information thus far, by all accounts, it sounds like our Tekle was suffering from a mental health crisis.
“We send our deepest sympathies to anyone in his building impacted by his crisis … The family has been given very little information about why Tekle’s mental health crisis became a death sentence. His family rejects the public narrative that the Minneapolis Police Department’s efforts were done in close collaboration with his family. His parents were highly restricted in terms of their ability to interact with Tekle and were not allowed to do everything they could to save their son’s life.”
His parents said he was artistic, and enjoyed photography, painting, and sunsets.
“Tekle was a deep, soulful, critical thinker …,” they said.
A woman at Saturday’s rally identified herself as Arabella Yarbrough, and said she was the one who called 911 because of gunshots going through her apartment. She told rally attendees she and her children were in danger the night of the shooting, and was upset that she didn’t have access to her apartment because the shooting remains under investigation.
Sundberg’s family, friends, and rally organizers attempted to speak with the woman before attendees eventually proceeded with their march.
A GoFundMe has been setup for Sundberg’s funeral expenses: https://www.gofundme.com/f/honoring-tekle-funeral-expenses.
Additional reporting from Sahan Journal staff.