Prosecutors: St. Paul officer’s fatal shooting of man, 65, was legally justified

20 March 2024

The St. Paul police officer who fatally shot a 65-year-old man armed with a knife last year will not be charged, the Ramsey County Attorney’s and Minnesota Attorney General’s Office announced Wednesday.

They determined that Officer Abdirahmin Dahir’s use of deadly force against Yia Xiong was legal under Minnesota law.

Now, the Coalition for Justice for Yia Xiong said they’ll be seeking changes to police procedures and training.

Dahir shot Xiong after responding to 911 calls on Feb. 11, 2023, at the apartment building where Xiong lived in the 100 block of South Western Avenue near West Seventh Street.

Yia Xiong in his Vietnam War uniform (Courtesy photo)

Body-worn camera showed “Mr. Xiong holding the knife in an aggressive manner as he assumes a slightly crouched position and begins to quickly emerge through his apartment door toward the officers, despite their continued orders for him to stop,” county and state prosecutors wrote in a 39-page memo about their review.

“Officer Dahir, and his SPPD colleagues had no objective reason to believe that Mr. Xiong did not understand the multiple orders given to him by officers to ‘stop’ and ‘drop the knife,” the memo continued. “To the contrary, when ordered three times in the lobby by Officer Dahir and his colleagues to ‘Drop the knife!’ Mr. Xiong briefly stopped and displayed his hands as if to show the officers that he understood their orders and was not in possession of the knife.”

Xiong’s family and the Justice for Yia Xiong Coalition has said Xiong was a disabled Hmong veteran “who saved American lives” during the Vietnam War. He was deaf in one ear from the war and didn’t speak English, they’ve said.

“The county attorney’s decision to not prosecute these officers goes against community expectations of police accountability and public safety,” said Snowdon Her, the coalition’s leader, in a Wednesday statement. “This injustice is just one layer of a deeper issue because their legal determinations are bound to a policing system that requires reform, and that system is shaped by violent police training and policies that are too broad in their use of deadly force.”

The coalition and Xiong’s family has urged prosecutors to file charges against the officers involved since Xiong died.

“Anytime deadly force is used by the government, it is a tragedy for all those involved, and it requires prosecutors to seek the truth without bias, fear, or favor and do the right thing,” Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said in a Wednesday statement. “… I am deeply saddened that this legal decision may deepen the pain for Mr. Yia Xiong’s family and community members who wanted something different.”

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