No charges for MN police snipers who shot 20-year-old Black man Tekle Sundberg during mental health crisis

Andrew “Tekle” Sundberg’s family says police didn’t allow them to help during standoff

Josh Marcus
San Francisco
Thursday 22 December 2022 18:49 GMT
Tekle Sundberg shooting: Bodycam video released by Minneapolis PD

Two Minnesota police snipers will not face charges for fatally shooting a Black man in the midst of a mental health crisis in July.

The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office announced the decision on Wednesday that SWAT officers Aaron Pearson and Zachary Seraphine met “all elements of the use-of-deadly-force statute” when they shot 20-year-old Andrew “Tekle” Sundberg on 14 July, after a lengthy standoff in Minneapolis.

"Mr Sundberg’s death was a tragedy," Hennepin 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."

The young man’s family was devastated by the news.

“Our hearts are broken,” his mother, Cindy Sundberg, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “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.”

Police arrived to Sundberg’s apartment complex on 14 July, on reports of gunshots being fired from his unit into neighbouring flats.

Officers spent hours trying convince Sundberg, who alternated between filming videos on his phone and yelling threats like, “I’m an international terrorist,” to leave the building peacefully.

According to the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office, the two snipers saw Sundberg approach the window of his apartment holding a gun, breaking through glass that had already been cracked by shots from officers earlier in the standoff.

“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,” the office’s report on the shooting reads. “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.”

Sundberg’s family said police promised them they wouldn’t shoot the 20-year-old, and didn’t allow them to approach their relative.

“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 told independent reporter Georgia Fort in a vide after the shooting. “That is a lie. They were not.”

Ms Sunberg, who is white and adopted Andrew from Ethiopia, believes her son would still be alive if he wasn’t Black.

“Everyone knows had it been a white person in that building, they would have talked him out, they would have waited,” she added in the video.

The decision not to press charges is notable because the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office handled the case internally, whereas typically it has outside prosecutors handle high-profile police shootings in the area, such as the 2020 murder of George Floyd, or the 2021 shooting of Daunte Wright.

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