One of the police snipers involved in the killing of a Black man in Minneapolis this week previously participated in the controversial shooting of a different young Black man in a fatal encounter the officer commended as a “good job,” records show.
Minneapolis Police Officer Aaron Pearson was identified as one of the two snipers in the killing of Andrew Tekle Sundberg early Thursday morning. Earlier this year, Pearson was also directly involved in and had glowing words for the police shooting of Amir Locke, who was killed under questionable circumstances amid lingering scrutiny of public safety in Minneapolis.
Sundberg, 20, was killed after police said officers responded to a report of a shooting in an apartment with a mother and two children inside, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune:
“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.
Sundberg’s family and their lawyers have demanded the release of video footage, rejected claims by the police about what led to the shooting and said he suffered from mental health issues.
“Like millions in America and worldwide, Tekle struggled with his mental health,” Sunberg’s parents said in a statement emailed to NewsOne. “While we have received very little information thus far, by all accounts, it sounds like our Tekle was suffering from a mental health crisis.”
Civil rights attorneys Ben Crump and Jeff Storm were retained by Sundberg’s parents. They questioned why Sundberg’s mental health crisis became “a death sentence” and said the police prevented his parents from trying to help their son during a six hours-long standoff before the shooting.
“His family rejects the public narrative that the Minneapolis Police Department’s efforts were done in close collaboration with his family,” Crump and Storm said in a statement. “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.”
The attorneys also said it still isn’t clear why police felt compelled to shoot Sundberg.
“The narrative released by the City of Minneapolis is unclear as to what specifically precipitated the shooting, stating, ‘After approximately 6 hours of attempted negotiations, an officer-involved shooting occurred…,’” they added. “No information has been provided as to why Tekle, who officers had isolated for hours, suddenly needed to be executed. We call on the Minneapolis Police Department to immediately provide the family with the video evidence and other information necessary to answer this question.”
It was not immediately clear if Pearson or his sniper partner Zachary Seraphine was the one who fired the fatal shot that struck Sundberg.
However, it is abundantly clear that Pearson was not only involved in the killing of Amir Locke back in February, but he also had nice words for the officer who shot the 22-year-old within seconds of seeing him.
Bodycam footage showed a Minneapolis police task force entering an apartment and startling Locke, who was sleeping on a sofa. When Locke reached for his legally owned gun, Minneapolis police officer Mark Hanneman shot him to death in a split second. As it turned out, Locke wasn’t even the person the police were looking for.
According to an official report about the shooting that was released by the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office and Hennepin County Attorney’s Office, Pearson opened the door to the apartment where Locke was sleeping and congratulated Hanneman for killing Locke.
“Officer Pearson used a key that had been provided by building management to unlock the door,” the report says in part.
Pearson also cuffed Locke after he was shot, but not before he praised Hanneman.
“Another officer hands Officer Pearson a set of flex cuffs, and Officer Pearson says, ‘Hanne, good job, bud,’” the report said. “Officer Pearson and other officers then secure Mr. Locke’s hands in flex cuffs.”
In what could be a hint at whether there will be any accountability for Sundberg’s police killing, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison’s office in April declined to criminally charge Hanneman for shooting Locke.
That followed the November failure of an amendment to replace the Minneapolis Police Department in an unsuccessful effort to reimagine public safety in the city
Minneapolis has been hemorrhaging hundreds of police officers while trying to overhaul its police department in the wake of George Floyd’s police murder in 2020. The city council recently approved the mayor’s nomination of Dr. Cedric Alexander — the past national president of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executive — to become Minneapolis’ first Director of Community Safety.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey told CBS News last week that Alexander was hired to “do things differently.”