The parents of 20-year-old Andrew Tekle Sundberg say they are still waiting for a detailed account from police, but it appears their son was suffering a mental health crisis in the hours before two Minneapolis police snipers shot and killed him early Thursday.
Speaking publicly Friday for the first time since the fatal encounter, Mark and Cindy Sundberg, who were called to the scene during the six-hour standoff with police, said family and friends are "beyond shocked and grieving" by the news of their son's death.
"Like millions in America and worldwide, Tekle struggled with his mental health," the Sundbergs said in a statement. "We send our deepest sympathies to anyone in his building impacted by his crisis, and we thank the community members who have come forward in loving memory of Tekle."
In an accompanying statement, civil rights attorneys Ben Crump and Jeff Storms said the Sundbergs were "highly restricted" in their ability to communicate with their son.
The lawyers, whom the family have retained as legal counsel, said Sundberg's parents were "not allowed to do everything they could to save their son's life" and rejected reports that police had worked in close collaboration with them.
Police spokesman Howie Padilla said police "took many steps in order to peacefully resolve the situation," and worked with Sundberg's parents to send phone calls and text and video messages to their son. "It would have been irresponsible of MPD to introduce any civilian physically into a dangerous and unpredictable situation in which many gunshots had already been fired through apartment walls," Padilla said.
Crump and Storms charged that the Police Department offered a vague explanation of the decision to shoot Sundberg after the prolonged stalemate.
"No information has been provided as to why Tekle, who officers had isolated for hours, suddenly needed to be executed," they said.
"We call on the Minneapolis Police Department to immediately provide the family with the video evidence and other information necessary to answer this question."
Police said they went to the apartment in the 900 block of 21st Ave. S. late Wednesday after a neighbor called 911 to report a gunshot had been fired into her unit, where she lived with two young children.
Police reported more gunfire when officers entered the building.
"Officers saw debris exploding from walls as shots were fired," according to a police report. "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."
According to search warrant affidavits filed by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) on Friday in Hennepin County District Court, officers in the hallway near Sundberg's apartment "started taking fire" as they evacuated other tenants.
"Minneapolis police officers exited the building and requested Minneapolis SWAT Team to respond," the affidavits said. About 4:30 a.m., two police snipers fired from the roof of an apartment building across the street, the affidavits said.
The BCA, which is leading the investigation, did not say whether one or both officers — Aaron Pearson and Zachary Seraphine — fatally wounded Sundberg.
BCA investigators collected a .38-caliber handgun with an extended magazine on a bed and live .45-caliber cartridges in a closet and in a bowl in the living room from Sundberg's third-floor apartment, the affidavits said.
At least seven spent bullets were recovered during the search of a separate unit on the same floor as Sundberg's.
The filings also listed numerous "less lethal" rounds found inside and outside the apartment building. When the BCA collected the snipers' rifles, their magazines still held rounds, the affidavits said.
Officers on the scene activated their body cameras, according to a police report, but authorities have not released the video.
Mental health professionals from Minneapolis' lauded behavioral crisis response team were not dispatched to the call because it involved a deadly weapon, city officials confirmed. The pilot program, launched in December, sends civilians to de-escalate nonviolent mental health situations traditionally handled by police.
"They don't go out on calls with firearms," said officer Garrett Parten, another police spokesman. "It's against their protocol."
Crump is a high-profile lawyer who has represented the families of George Floyd, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Breonna Taylor and other Black people killed by police in recent years. He has often secured multimillion-dollar settlements for police brutality and has earned the nickname "Black America's attorney general."
Along with the locally based Storms, Crump worked on behalf of the Minnesota-based families of Amir Locke and Daunte Wright — both killed by Twin Cities police officers — and has been outspoken on issues of police accountability.
In their statement, Sundberg's parents said their son was "deeply loved."
"Tekle was a son, brother, grandson, uncle, nephew, and friend," they said. "From the time he fixed a stapler for his preschool teacher, we knew Tekle to be capable of fixing anything — furniture, snowblowers, and his grandfather's riding lawn mower.
"He had the strength and courage to challenge bullies and stand up for the most vulnerable, but also had the innate sensitivity to be capable of loving everyone and everything from plants to his beloved cat, Cali."
An online fundraising campaign from 2015, initiated on the Sundbergs' behalf when then-13-year-old Tekle was injured in an ATV crash, mentioned how the family "has opened their hearts to kids in need of a loving home (three biological kids and six who came home after birth) — which they've provided." Tekle was born in Ethiopia, it said.
The Sundbergs, a family of nine children, have for decades been members of Park Avenue United Methodist Church in south Minneapolis, a house of worship whose membership includes many racially blended families and whose mission is the pursuit of racial reconciliation.
As a youngster, Tekle skated for the DinoMights, a hockey program based at the church. "Tekle Sundberg's life was taken too soon by MPD," the organization posted on Facebook. "Words cannot describe our sadness and anger for the Sundberg family."
Sundberg's death was the second fatal encounter involving Minneapolis police this year: Amir Locke was shot to death during a predawn apartment raid Feb. 2. Pearson, an eight-year veteran of the force, was on the SWAT team that shot Locke; Seraphine, a team medic, was called to provide aid at the scene, BCA records show.
Minneapolis police have been under intense scrutiny over fatal encounters with the public ever since then-officer Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd in 2020.