fbpx

Family of 27-year-old stabbed in St. Paul decries death, demands accountability

30December 2021

Tabatha Lewis has not been able to bring herself to eat a full meal since Dec. 3, the day after her 27-year-old Black son was allegedly stabbed to death by a white man on St. Paul’s East Side in a dispute over a parking spot.

Arnell Jermel “AJ” Stewart died that day, her birthday, on an operating table at Regions Hospital.

By then, Brian Kjellberg, 50, had already been arrested, charged with stabbing Stewart with a sharpened piece of 1/4-inch stainless steel pipe in the 1700 block of E. 7th Street. He was charged with unintentional second-degree murder; his bail was set at $1 million. He was released on $500,000 bond days later, his bail lowered by Ramsey County District Judge Richard Kyle Jr.

How her son’s killer could be released on $500,000 bond is among many questions plaguing Lewis. She shared as much Thursday during a news conference at the Indigenous Roots Cultural Arts Center, held alongside family and community members — the Justice for AJ Coalition — demanding Kjellberg be held accountable for Stewart’s death.

“This is so unjustified,” she said through tears. “There is no word that I could write down to explain that part.”

The coalition demands that Ramsey County Attorney John Choi pursue first-degree murder and false imprisonment charges against Kjellberg and release any video, audio and 911 call recordings to the family. It also asks that the FBI investigate Stewart’s killing as a hate crime, just as it did in the murder of Ahmaud Arbery.

According to the complaint against Kjellberg:

Officers responded to the scene of the stabbing just before 8 p.m. Dec. 2 after Kjellberg had called 911 and said a Black man was trying to take his own car, which was blocking Kjellberg’s driveway. Kjellberg told the dispatcher he refused to let the man remove his Mercedes SUV.

Instead, Kjellberg was waiting for a tow truck to pick it up. He had already called to have the car ticketed, too.

Kjellberg told investigators Stewart ran toward him and punched him several times in the face. He said he feared for his own safety so he stabbed Stewart in the chest with the pointed metal tube.

Officers found Stewart at a house nearby. He was still breathing and able to track others with his eyes, but his lips were blue. He couldn’t answer any questions.

When investigators asked Kjellberg why he didn’t just let Stewart take the car, Kjellberg said he wanted it ticketed and towed so the problem wouldn’t reoccur. “Kjellberg emphasized that it was his property and he was tired of dealing with the parking problems,” the complaint said.

At the news conference, Stewart’s family members disputed Kjellberg’s statements, saying it would’ve been out of character for Stewart, who lived in Georgia but was in town visiting relatives, to throw punches.

“You say my cousin punched him in his face; I don’t see that,” said Lateeshia Coleman, Stewart’s cousin who grew up in the same home as him. “You say a fight was happening; I don’t believe that. In his booking picture he had no bruises. He didn’t look like he was defending himself.”

St. Paul resident Michael Kleber-Diggs called Kjellberg the East Side of St. Paul’s version of George Zimmerman, Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael and William Bryan — the killers of Trayvon Martin and Ahmaud Arbery.

“He thought he could take his perceptions about tiny laws into his own hands and act like the police. … We keep modeling the version of authority we see too often in America and right here in the Twin Cities. Sometimes it’s an air freshener, sometimes it’s a brake light, sometimes it’s allegations over a counterfeit $20 bill and this time it was a parking spot.”

Several other speakers such as poet Tish Jones, civil rights attorney Nekima Levy Armstrong and state Rep. John Thompson stood in solidarity with Stewart’s family, often ending their statements with the call “Justice for AJ.”

Each time, the coalition behind would respond in unison: “Justice for AJ.”

Kjellberg did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment. His next court appearance is scheduled for Jan. 3. His listed attorney, John Arechigo, declined to comment, saying he has not yet been formally retained.

This post was originally published on this site

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Twin Cities Dealz

For more information on our listings and advertising services please contact us today!

Skip to content