In Minneapolis—birthplace of the nationwide defund-the-police movement— another viral police killing has ignited a local firestorm. But the circumstances of this case, in contrast to George Floyd’s death in police custody, have highlighted the activist Left’s perverse prioritization of violent criminals over their victims and the folly of one of their preferred policing reforms.
On July 13, at about 9:30 p.m., police responded to a call from 24-year-old Arabella Foss-Yarbrough, a mother of two young children. She told police that a man had “shot through” her apartment while she was cooking dinner for her kids, adding, “I don’t know if I should shoot back. I have [a] license to carry.”
According to CBS news, police evacuated the family of three and other building residents before beginning an hours-long negotiation with the suspect, Andrew Tekle Sundberg, who barricaded himself in an apartment. Roughly seven hours later, at about 4:30 a.m., after all police attempts to communicate with Sundberg had failed (including bringing his parents to the scene), police officers fired their rifles. Sundberg later died from life-threatening injuries.
Police have not yet disclosed what prompted the officers to fire their weapons, and they should do so, of course, after a thorough and transparent investigation. But for some activists, such picayune matters as facts are an afterthought on the road to judgment. For celebrity attorney Benjamin Crump, for instance, the race of the victim is reason enough to infer racist brutality: “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!”
The local Black Lives Matter chapter also led a march in the neighborhood where Sundberg died to protest his killing, but the demonstration didn’t provoke quite the reaction they hoped. An emotional Foss-Yarbrough confronted the protestors: “This is not a George Floyd situation. George Floyd was unarmed. This is not OK,” Foss-Yarbrough declared. “He tried to kill me in front of my kids.” She also criticized the preferentialism the demonstrators were showing for the deceased perpetrator of the crime, as opposed to his victims. “I have Black children. I am a woman of color,” she said. “If I would have lost my life, would you guys do this for me?”
Even Sundberg’s parents showed more empathy to Foss-Yarbrough than the activists. “My heart goes out for that woman. She went through a very traumatic event with those bullets coming through her house. That’ll affect her for the rest of her life, that’ll affect her children for the rest of their life, and I’m so sorry it happened,” said Mark Sundberg, the father of Andrew.
In a saner world, Foss-Yarbrough and other victims of crime wouldn’t have to question where the balance of the community’s sympathy lies. Across Minneapolis, dozens more families have been left reeling after last year’s record-high homicide toll. As I reported in City Journal last year, “statistics don’t capture the true impact of crime in a community.” But the measurable effects on children of a neighborhood plagued by violence include everything from “increased anxiety and impaired impulse control” to “substantial temporary reductions in cognitive performance on standardized tests.”
More than anything, though, the latest police shooting reveals the infeasibility of progressive proposals to replace police officers with mental-health responders. Violent offenders like Sundberg who endanger the public require an immediate, robust law enforcement response. One study tracking more than 4 million calls to 911 in nine cities found that mental-health episodes make up less than 2 percent of those calls. As long as violence remains a pervasive threat in inner-city communities, police shootings will be a tragic but necessary last resort for officers engaging with dangerous suspects.
Photo by Aaron Lavinsky/Star Tribune via Getty Images