Family of man shot by police say he was in mental health crisis

NEW AUBURN, Minn. — A Minnesota family can’t understand why their call for help ended…

NEW AUBURN, Minn. — A Minnesota family can’t understand why their call for help ended with their loved one’s death. A law enforcement officer shot and killed Brent Alsleben in New Auburn Thursday morning. Through their grief, his family told WCCO that more needs to be done to understand mental health. 

Brent’s family is trying to process how things escalated and ended so tragically. 

“He loved life and was robbed of it,” mom Tara Sykes said.

They say the 34-year-old was artistic, kind and giving. He also suffered from mental illness, diagnosed with bipolar Schizoaffective in 2011, and was hospitalized.

“We had his back. No matter what. Family first,” said Tara and Jay Sykes, his stepfather.

He was off his medication and became withdrawn after a recent loss. His mom and sister granted legal guardianship earlier this week in order to get him help. 

“We were told that was the only way we were going to do it. Is you get help from the police,” Jay said.

So they say they coordinated with Sibley County Sheriff’s Office and met an officer at Brent’s apartment on Wednesday. Initial attempts to get him to come out didn’t work.  They say EMTs tried and after that they say things changed.

“There was a conflict and they all just rushed out and he locked the door behind them and then they just started calling more and more and more law enforcement and negotiators came and SWAT came,” Tara said.

They say they thought they were getting Brent the help he needed.

“Mentally ill people have, not only have rights, but they need our help as a community. They need our help and that’s all we were trying to do with Brent, and he died because we tried to help him,” Jay said.

They call losing him this way a system failure.

“To me this is just proof that they were ill-prepared and did not know how to handle a mental health patient,” sister Stacia Shulz said.

A fate they never could have imagined. 

“I will never ever get to hug my child again,” Tara said.

The family has set up Brent’s fund to help cover funeral expenses and legal costs.

The family believes an officer was hurt in the incident. They hope they’re OK and forgive them for any harm Brent may have caused.  The BCA says the investigation is in its early stages. 

Several Minnesota communities now embed social workers with police or sheriff’s departments to help manage crisis calls. Watch our recent report on how that’s working in one county here.

If you or a loved one is struggling, the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline can help. Call 988 to speak with someone anytime, day or night.