A family of a 27-year-old Black man is demanding answers about his 2021 death. His mother and activists in the community are demanding that the man allegedly responsible for his death, is held accountable.
According to the Star Tribune, Arnell Jermel “AJ” Stewart died by stabbing on Dec. 2 after a fatal confrontation with a white man over a parking spot.
Brian Kjellberg, 50, owned the property on 1700 block of E. 7th Street, where Stewart’s vehicle was parked, and argued that he did not want people to place their cars on the east side of his property.
He says there were even “no parking” signs on the property to deter people from parking in the unauthorized area attached to his 1720 E. 7th Street property, purchased seven years ago.
Kjellberg and Stewart reportedly fought after the Black man came to get in his Mercedes SUV.
A criminal complaint stated that Kjellberg said he was punched in the face repeatedly by Stewart. The attack prompted him to strike Stewart with a quarter-inch sharpened stainless steel pole, stabbing him in his heart through his coat.
The Ramsey County medical examiner said that when Stewart arrived at the hospital he was alive but died while he was on the operating table at Regions Hospital after losing too much blood.
Kjellberg was arrested and charged with second-degree murder.
Police reportedly asked him why he did not just let the man take his car and go, and he replied that he had called authorities to ticket and tow the man — hoping that would stop him from parking again.
The complaint said, “Kjellberg emphasized that it was his property and he was tired of dealing with the parking problems.”
Kjellberg’s bond was set at $1 million and he was released after it was lowered to $500,000. Stewart’s mother, Tabatha Lewis, family and community members calling themselves “the Justice for AJ Coalition,” hosted a news conference last week asking police for questions.
A tearful Lewis said the killing was “unjustified” and that she does have a word to explain it.
Stewart’s cousin Lateeshia Coleman said, “You say my cousin punched him in his face; I don’t see that. … 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.”
Michael Kleber-Diggs, a St. Paul resident, likened the situation to the Trayvon Martin killing by George Zimmerman killing and the Ahmaud Arbery murder committed by recently convicted Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael, and William Bryan.
“He thought he could take his perceptions about tiny laws into his own hands and act like the police,” he said.
“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.”
Lewis has obtained the services of lawyer Nekima Levy Armstrong to help her obtain justice for her son. In an interview with Rolling Out, she said she believed the killing was racially motivated.
She said that she heard him say racial slurs on a 911 call the night of the killing. She also quotes him as saying in the courtroom, “There are ‘n—–‘ parking on my house.”
She alleges the place that her son parked was not his property, but an old fire station. Kjellberg’s Twitter page says that he owns the fire station. The white pages also list him as the owner.
Levy Armstrong said the family has set up a Justice for AJ Facebook page to update the community on the status of the case, asking that people reach out to the county attorney and push for stronger charges against Kjellberg.
She further would like the community to reach out to the U.S. attorney’s office to demand that they launch a hate crime investigation in concert with the FBI.
Stewart’s mother wants him to be charged with a hate crime and premeditated first-degree murder.
There has been no formal response to the family from Kjellberg or his representation. He was scheduled to appear back before a judge this month.
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