Surrounded by the African masks and paintings that fill his St. Paul home, veteran actor/singer T. Mychael Rambo sipped what he calls his daily elixir — a blend of mango, strawberries, coconut milk and greens.
Last weekend, he was carjacked, pistol-whipped and left bloodied in the street by a group of young men. Doctors diagnosed a concussion and put six stitches in his head.
He’s glad to be alive. “It was very surreal,” said Rambo, who’s on doctor-ordered rest.
St. Paul police said the case remains under investigation. The suspects were described as young men between the ages of 14 and 18.
The incident happened in St. Paul, around midnight Saturday, July 21. Rambo said he had attended the city's Rondo Days festival earlier that day and was driving down University Avenue when five young men — teenagers he had never met — shouted to him at a stoplight near Lexington Avenue: “Hey, Unc, won’t you give us a lift to the next train station?”
He agreed and they piled into his vehicle, four in the back, one in the front.
“I took them to the intersection they were asking for,” he said. “When we got there, one of the boys asked me to take them to another block — that they were going somewhere else in the neighborhood. When I turned down the residential street, the fellow who had been giving me directions put a gun to the base of my head and told me to give up everything I had.
“He hit me with the barrel of the gun. … He fired a set of directions at me, which I didn’t respond to, because I was a bit in shock. When he moved the butt of the gun, I pushed my foot on the brake ... I was able to get my seat belt off, the car door opened and I ejected myself from the vehicle.
“When I was getting up off the ground, someone in the vehicle managed to stop it. The guy with the gun came out and put it to my temple and told me he would blow my brains out. One of the boys came running over, rifled through my pockets, took the contents and ran back to the car and drove off. They left me there, standing in the middle of the street, bleeding, totally disoriented and distressed.”
Rambo walked to a nearby club and asked to use the phone to call police and an ambulance, which took him to Regions Hospital, where he spent five hours.
Doctors told him to rest and avoid computer and TV screens and strenuous activities, he said. But his most immediate concern was for his safety.
St. Paul police recovered his vehicle on St. Paul’s East Side, on the 1100 block of Ross Avenue. “It’s pretty well ransacked,” Rambo said.
Police spokesman Steve Linders said the car is being processed for fingerprints.
Rambo expressed no anger toward the carjackers. “I’m saddened that there are so many who are lost and looking for a way out,” he said.
On Saturday, he’ll celebrate his birthday. While the incident has caused him to miss work — including the reading of a new play at Theater Latté Da — he hopes to get clearance soon from his doctor to resume work.
In the meantime, he’s savoring the outpouring of support from the community. A neighbor stopped by during the interview to ask after his health. Rambo has taken a philosophical approach to the incident, invoking Martin Luther King Jr., who dreamed of creating a “beloved community.”
While the attack was “disheartening, I’m not discouraged,” said Rambo, whose longtime passion is helping young people through mentorships, teaching and performance, including a juvenile offender program offered by Hennepin County.
“Our children, with technology, are living very isolated lives,” he continued. “And they’re seeing that people in high places, people who have power, don’t reap consequences for their behavior. [But] the more people are able to connect to each other, to create community, the more we can see others and have some empathy. Then we will [all] be better off.”
Staff reporter Chao Xiong contributed to this report.