‘He needed help’: Mom of Black man killed in SWAT standoff says her son was in mental health crisis

‘He needed help’: Mom of Black man killed in SWAT standoff says her son was in mental health crisis

Real life is not a Batman sequel with clear villains and victims. But when it comes to police taking Black and brown lives, there almost has to be a perfect combination of wrongdoing on the part of police and innocence on the part of the person of color for them to win any measure of widespread empathy. Such was the case in the death of George Floyd, a Black father shown dying in viral witness footage as a Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck, holding the position for more than nine minutes. The officer, Derek Chauvin, was convicted of murder, and his peers of violating Floyd’s civil rights, but no officer was even charged in the death of 22-year-old Amir Locke. He was killed by Minneapolis police in the midst of Chauvin’s federal trial. Locke was under a blanket on the couch during a SWAT raid on Feb. 2 when police employing a no-knock warrant shot and killed him, reporting that he appeared to have reached for a gun after the SWAT team’s intrusion. Floyd had no gun. Locke did, but they both ended up dead. Activists argue, citing as evidence mass shooter after mass shooter apprehended peacefully, that Floyd and Locke ended up dead for no other reason than that they were Black men, presumed dangerous.

The adoptive parents of 20-year-old Andrew “Tekle” Sundberg said their son was killed for the same reason. After a six-hour SWAT standoff, officers Aaron Pearson and Zachary Seraphine shot and killed Tekle, whose family believes he was having a mental health crisis.

RELATED STORY: Louisiana police fired 11 times, killing Black man as he walked away

Minneapolis Police Department officers gave their PROMISE to Tekle Sundberg’s parents that their son’s mental health crisis would NOT end in a shooting… Still, the officers denied Tekle’s dad’s pleas to talk to him during the hours-long standoff & ultimately fatally shot Tekle. pic.twitter.com/RdZMv1zOOb

— Ben Crump (@AttorneyCrump) July 16, 2022

“He needed help,” Tekle’s mother, Cindy Sundberg, said during a news conference.

Cindy and Mark Sundberg, Tekle’s parents, said the Minneapolis mayor and police have been disingenuous in their description of how the family was involved in the standoff. “The police are portraying it and the mayor is portraying it like we collaborated and the police were all kind and loving to our family as they tried to help Tekle,” Cindy Sundberg said. “That is a lie. They were not.”

All were working together to try and reach a peaceful resolution amid dangerous circumstances while keeping nearby residents safe. The City will continue working to share as much information as possible in these early hours and has turned the investigation over to the BCA.

— Mayor Jacob Frey (@MayorFrey) July 14, 2022

Minneapolis police encountered Tekle after neighbor Arabella Yarbrough called 911 on July 13. She reported gunshots in her apartment that just missed her and forced her and her two young sons to hide in a bedroom until officers arrived. “I thought, ‘We’re not going to make it, we’re not going to make it,'” Yarbrough told CBS Minnesota.

She later interrupted protesters calling for justice after Tekle’s death to ask them if she would’ve lost her life would they be there for her. “Yes ma’am,” one of the protesters, who was holding a blow horn, responded. “If I would’ve died, would he be a bad guy then?” Yarbrough also asked. “Why is he not a bad guy now?”

The mother told Fox 9: “That man was armed. George Floyd was not armed. Breonna Taylor was not armed. Amir Locke—he was armed and he had his own guns but they came into his home while he’s licensed to carry and killed him. He did not … fire. This man intentionally tried to kill us.”

Although police have not confirmed Tekle’s intentions, his parents told Fox 9 they empathize with Yarbrough. They, however, still feel that their son should not have been shot and that if he were a white man, he would not have been. 

Tekle’s mother told reporters her son died on her birthday. “Everyone knows, had it been a white person in that building, they would’ve talked him out, they would have waited,” she said. “People who go in and shoot massive amounts of people are arrested safely and alive if they’re white. If they’re not white, we know the outcome. They’re dead. They’re dead.

“It’s all about color. It’s all about the lack of value, the humanity, of a Black body.”

Minneapolis police said in a news release detailing their response to Yarbrough’s 911 call that even as officers made their way to her building’s third floor, they heard more shots being fired. “Officers saw debris exploding from walls as shots were fired,” police said in the release. “Officers called for backup and worked to rescue the mother and her children from the building in this active shooter situation. Officers also worked to move others to safety who were believed to be in danger.

“As those bystanders were brought to safety, officers were able to focus attention on a man who had isolated himself in a third-floor apartment.”

That man was later identified as Tekle.

Yarbrough and her children thankfully did survive the encounter, but Tekle was fatally shot by two snipers after being barricaded in an apartment. He died on July 14 after being taken to a local hospital.

Police said they tried to call Sundberg’s cell and bring the man’s parents to the scene to help. “They tried communicating through phone calls, voice mails, and video messages,” police said.

Mark Sundberg said he asked every police officer who approached him if he could talk to his son but the officers told him no, and that Tekle wouldn’t get shot. They said they planned to use rubber bullets. “And I was starting to believe them,” the father said. “I thought ‘maybe they’ve changed,’ but no.”

It’s unclear what led the snipers to fire, but attorneys Ben Crump and Jeff Storm, who are representing Sundberg’s family, said they are seeking answers.

Attorney Jeff Storms says his team had made a formal request for body camera footage of the incident. He says they still have no information on what prompted MPD to shoot. pic.twitter.com/0SPIzq6AIt

— Mary McGuire (@mcguirereports) July 16, 2022

“No information has been provided as to why Tekle, who officers had isolated for hours, suddenly needed to be executed,” Crump and Storm told CBS Minnesota. “We call on the Minneapolis Police Department to immediately provide the family with the video evidence and other information necessary to answer this question.”

This is Tekle Sundberg. Minneapolis Police Department killed this smart, loving & artistic 20-year-old after an hours-long standoff while he was experiencing a mental health crisis. We need ANSWERS from MPD as to why Tekle’s mental health crisis became a death sentence! pic.twitter.com/MuxrzxcHL0

— Ben Crump (@AttorneyCrump) July 16, 2022

The state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension said in a statement it is continuing to investigate the incident, which includes a review of bystander video. “Several news outlets in the metro have aired a redacted version of the video, but BCA agents have been unable to view the footage in its entirety,” the agency said. “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.”

Read the full Minneapolis police news release:

At about 4:30 a.m., six hours of attempted negotiations with a man who had isolated himself in an apartment resulted in an officer-involved shooting. That man was transported to the hospital, however, despite all life-saving measures, he died this morning.

The following information regarding what led to an on-scene police response is based on preliminary information. This preliminary information is subject to clarification by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension as the ongoing investigation into the incident continues

On Wednesday, July 13 at approximately 9:30 p.m., officers from the Minneapolis Police Department’s Third Precinct responded to a report of shots fired inside an apartment building in the 900 block of 21st Avenue South. A mother with two young children called to report that someone had shot into her apartment.  

As officers arrived on the building’s third floor, they heard additional shots. Officers saw debris exploding from walls as shots were fired. Officers called for backup and worked to rescue the mother and her children from the building in this active shooter situation. Officers also worked to move others to safety who were believed to be in danger.

As those bystanders were brought to safety, officers were able to focus attention on a man who had isolated himself in a third-floor apartment.    

MPD Crisis Team Negotiators and MPD SWAT responded and attempted negotiations throughout the night and early morning hours. These attempts included identifying and calling the man’s cell phone as well as bringing the man’s parents to the scene to help. They tried communicating through phone calls, voice mails, and video messages. Officers also made numerous attempts through a public address system to instruct the man to exit the apartment with his hands raised.    

After approximately 6 hours of attempted negotiations, an officer-involved shooting occurred resulting in life-threatening injuries to the man. The man, believed to be in his 20s, was transported to Hennepin Healthcare where he later died.  

The Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office will work to identify the man, while also ruling on the cause and manner of his death. The Minnesota BCA will conduct an independent investigation into this officer-involved shooting.

This is the public information available for release at this time.

It is understood that people will want answers quickly to many questions. The MPD shares this desire while seeking answers that are provided after thorough and full investigations. We are asking for patience to allow for that full investigation to take place.

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