By Victor Omondi
Tabatha Lewis hasn’t eaten a full meal since Dec. 3, the day after her 27-year-old Black son was allegedly stabbed to death by a white man in a disagreement over a parking place on St. Paul’s East Side.
Arnell Jermel “AJ” Stewart died on an operating table at Regions Hospital on his birthday.
Brian Kjellberg, 50, had already been arrested and charged with stabbing Stewart in the 1700 block of E. 7th Street with a sharpened piece of 1/4-inch stainless steel tubing.
His bond was set at $1 million after he was charged with unintended second-degree murder. Ramsey County District Judge Richard Kyle Jr. reduced his bail to $500,000 and released him a few days later.
Lewis has a lot of concerns about how her son’s killer was released on a $500,000 bail. She said as much during a news conference at the Indigenous Roots Cultural Arts Center on Thursday, where she was joined by family and community members to demand that Kjellberg be held accountable for Stewart’s death.
“This is so unjustified,” she said, her eyes welling up with tears. “There is no word that I could write down to explain that part.”
The group demands that Ramsey County Attorney John Choi press charges of first-degree murder and wrongful imprisonment against Kjellberg, as well as the release of any video, audio, or 911 call recordings to Kjellberg’s family. It also requests that the FBI examine Stewart’s murder as a hate crime, as it did with Ahmaud Arbery’s murder.
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.
Stewart came up to Kjellberg and hit him in the face numerous times, according to Kjellberg. He claimed he was afraid for his own safety, so he used the pointed metal tube to stab Stewart in the chest.