MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — State investigators have identified the police officer who fatally shot a man in southern Minnesota last week following a standoff that lasted more than 24 hours.
The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension says that officer Zachary Gast with the Austin Police Department shot the man last Thursday. Gast has been with the Austin department for two years. He is on paid administrative leave, which is standard procedure following a police shooting.
Investigators identified the man he shot as 38-year-old Kokou Christopher Fiafonou of Austin. According to a medical examiner’s office, Fiafonou died of multiple gunshot wounds. A knife was recovered near his body, investigators noted.
Officers with the Austin Police Department don’t wear body cameras. However, portions of the incident were captured on dash camera, investigators say.
According to Austin police, the shooting happened following a standoff that began Wednesday afternoon. Officers were called to the area of 7th Street and 8th Avenue Northwest on a report that someone was walking in traffic holding a machete.
Officers confronted Fiafonou, but he ran into a home. Officers tried to shock him with Tasers, but they were ineffective.
Police said that Fiafonou was threatening to hurt people before he retreated into a nearby apartment building. For more than a day, officers tried to get him out of the building, attempting to subdue him with pepper spray and foam bullets.
On Thursday night, Fiafonou left the apartment and went to a nearby gas station. Officers followed. In the parking lot, he confronted officers while carrying a knife, police say. At that moment, Gast fired. Fiafonou died at the scene.
In an online fundraiser for funeral expenses, a person identifying themselves as a relative of Fiafonou’s said that thier cousin had mental health issues and that police should have sought medical assistance instead of trying to subdue him with force. They said that he didn’t deserve to be shot.
The BCA’s investigation into the police shooting remains ongoing. When complete, the findings will be sent to the Mower County Attorney’s Office for review and possible charges.
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