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“It’s not OK!” Neighbor of man killed in OIS yells at BLM protesters to go home

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Maya Rao

Star Tribune

It began Saturday afternoon as a grim, if familiar, ritual.

Dozens of protesters gathered outside the south Minneapolis apartment building where police fatally shot a Black man two days earlier.

His name was Andrew Tekle Sundberg; his family said he was having a mental health crisis that led to an overnight standoff with officers, and activists wanted to know why the police could not have taken him in alive.

“We’re here to respect life, demand justice, and we’re demanding the release of the body cam footage,” Trahern Crews, a lead organizer for Black Lives Matter Minnesota, said through a bullhorn.

Then a woman named Arabella Foss-Yarbrough drove up and began screaming.

She lived across the hall from Sundberg, she said, and was home Wednesday evening with her 2- and 4-year-old sons when bullets pierced her front door. She said she and her sons quickly dropped to the floor. Foss-Yarbrough called the police, who evacuated them from the building.

She said she was still traumatized. She said she believed she could have died.

“I have Black children; I am a woman of color!” yelled Foss-Yarbrough, who is of Black, white and Native descent. “If I would have lost my life, would you guys do this for me?”

“Yes, ma’am,” Crews said through his bullhorn. Sundberg’s father, Mark Sundberg, walked over to comfort her. His expression was pained, sympathetic.

“I am so sorry,” he told Foss-Yarbrough. “I am so sorry.”

“This is not OK,” she said.

“No, it’s not, and I am so sorry that this happened,” Sundberg said.

He and his wife had adopted Andrew from Ethiopia when he was a child. He was one of the family’s five other adopted and three biological children.

When a protester told Foss-Yarbrough that the gathering Saturday was not the time nor the place for her outburst, she responded: “He tried to kill me in front of my kids!”

As some demonstrators tried to calm her, most of them moved to the other end of the block. There, a speaker asked why Minneapolis police had not let Sundberg’s parents help de-escalate the confrontation by using a megaphone outside the building so that he could see they supported him during a mental health breakdown.

“Tekle was loved,” said the speaker, who declined to give her name. “Tekle was a good person. Tekle was going through a manic breakdown.”

Police said they went to the apartment late Wednesday in response to Foss-Yarbrough’s 911 call and encountered more gunfire and debris exploding from walls as they entered the building.

About 4:30 a.m., two police snipers fired at Sundberg from the roof of an apartment building across the street, according to search warrant affidavits. With other occupants evacuated from the building by that time, it’s not clear why the standoff ended as it did.

Civil rights attorneys Ben Crump and Jeff Storms said Friday that the Sundbergs were “highly restricted” in their ability to communicate with their son during the standoff. The lawyers, who are representing the family, disputed police statements that the family worked closely with them to end the standoff.

Body camera recordings are expected to be released to the family early next week. Police said that with more than 50 officers involved over more than six hours, there are hundreds of hours of video and audio to review, and that the department is working to follow legal protocol.

The protesters Saturday peacefully marched through the streets and ended their demonstration at Merwyn Triangle Park. Some of them approached Foss-Yarbrough to offer to pay for a hotel because she could not return to her apartment.

Marcus McGhee said he heard Sundberg’s gunshots from his second-floor unit.

“The whole building was petrified,” McGhee said.

After he was evacuated, he booked a hotel at 2:30 in the morning.

“Nobody wanted [Sundberg] to die,” McGee said. But tenants “felt like he made a decision that night that put his life in jeopardy.”

Activist Lavish Mack said that anyone comparing the situation to that of Amir Locke – the last man killed by Minneapolis police, while half-asleep and holding a gun pointed at the floor when officers shot him in an apartment raid – is “way off.”

But Mack said he also thought that if Sundberg “was a white person he wouldn’t have been killed, and they would have had consideration and valued his life.”

©2022 StarTribune. Visit startribune.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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