Officer who fatally shot man in Austin, Minn. will not be charged

An officer who fatally shot a man after an hours-long standoff in December will not be charged for his part in the incident.

An officer who fatally shot a man after an hours-long standoff in December will not be charged for his part in the incident, according to a recent announcement.

On Monday Olmsted County Attorney Mark Ostrem sent a letter to Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) investigators stating that, "after a thorough review of the events reports and recordings related to the fatal shooting of Kokou Christopher Fiafonou on Dec. 23, 2021, our office has concluded that the evidence does not support criminal charges against any of the officers involved, including officer Zachary Gast of the Austin Police Department."

If charged, the State would need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that use of deadly force was not justified. The use of deadly force would also need to be evaluated from the perspective of a reasonable police officer on the scene and in the same circumstances. 

According to Austin police, the incident started on the afternoon of December 22 around 3:45 p.m. when police were called to 7th Street NW and 8th Avenue NW for the report of a man walking in traffic holding a knife. After responding, police say they spotted Fiafonou holding a machete.

Police say Fiafonou walked to a gas station armed with a knife when they ultimately confronted him and fired shots.

Police said Fiafonou ignored there orders, and they followed him to an apartment near 4th Avenue NW and 11th Street NW. At the residence, they tried to Tase him but say it was ineffective.

Saying Fiafonou made threats to harm others, police called in negotiation teams who tried to work with Fiafonou to get him out of the home. During the ensuing police say they also used pepper gas and less-lethal foam munitions but say those were also ineffective.

At 6 p.m. on December 23, more than 24 hours later, officers say units were "drawn down to uniformed officers posted in the area to continue to monitor the situation."

At 9:30 p.m., police say Fiafonou walked out of the home and to a gas station, still armed with a knife. Ultimately, as police confronted him, officers fired shots, mortally wounding Fiafonou. Police say they tried to resuscitate him, but ultimately he died at the scene.

Police later said a knife was found at the scene. They also said the Austin Police Department didn't have bodycams, but squad dashcam video did capture the incident.