Twin Cities Hmong community call for change after cop who fatally shot war hero receives no charges

Twin Cities Hmong community call for change after cop who fatally shot war hero receives no charges
via GoFundMe, Saint Paul Police Department
Michelle De Pacina
21 days ago
Members of the Twin Cities Hmong community are calling for changes after the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office decided not to charge a St. Paul police officer who fatally shot 65-year-old Yia Xiong last year. 
Key points:
  • On March 20, Ramsey County Attorney John Choi and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison jointly announced that no charges would be brought against Officer Abdirahman Dahir after coming to an agreement that his use of force was legal.  
  • Xiong’s family and community members, including council members, are speaking out and demanding several changes within the police department. 
Catch up:
  • On Feb. 11, 2023, officers responded to a call regarding a man threatening residents with a knife at an apartment complex on Western Avenue South. Body camera footage shows Officers Dahir and Noushue Cha confronting Xiong, who was armed with a 16-inch knife, at his apartment door. 
  • Despite commands to come out, Xiong tried to enter his apartment. When the officers prevented the door from closing, Xiong stepped into the hallway with his knife before Dahir fired his rifle and Cha deployed his taser.
The details:
  • The investigation into the incident was led by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. Choi and Ellison’s office had consulted with use-of-force expert Jeff Noble, who testified that the officers involved faced a threat to their lives, justifying the use of deadly force.
  • In a statement released last week, Ellison said, “Our determination in this case is and must be based on what the law requires, and it is a responsibility we take with the greatest seriousness even as we hold the victim and his family in our hearts and minds.”
Xiong’s family speaks out:
  • On Wednesday, Xiong’s daughter, Mai Tong, spoke at a news conference at the Ramsey County courthouse, expressing her pain over her father’s death and emphasizing the devastation her family felt while waiting a year for a decision that led to no charges. 
  • “It is painful that a veteran who once fought for the principal of what this country stands for, would fall victim to the very system meant to protect him,” Mai Tong said. “Our community deserves better. My father, Yia Xiong, deserved better. My widowed mother deserves better. My children deserve better. We all deserve a system that protects the most vulnerable among us.”
  • According to Xiong’s family, the 65-year-old did not speak English and he lost his hearing while fighting for the U.S. in the U.S. Secret War in Laos five decades ago.
  • Xiong’s family and community members believe that the police should have acted with more patience, noting that the apartment building was for the elderly and people with disabilities. 
The Yia Xiong Justice Coalition: 
  • Xiong’s death previously led to an assembly of the Yia Xiong Justice Coalition pushing for charges against the officers involved. Snowdon Herr, the founder of the coalition, criticized the St. Paul Police Department’s policies and training and recently stated that they will continue “to find justice for Yia Xiong outside of prosecution.”
  • The coalition called for transparency from the Attorney’s Office in releasing the police report and urged the police department to review its cultural competency training practices. They also emphasized the importance of dialogue between the police and the community to foster healing and collaborative policy development. 
  • “We need them to come and talk to us so that we can heal and build policies together, if they’re really serious about making change in the community and building trust,” coalition member Kong Xiong said.
St. Paul City Councilmembers’ statement:
  • Similarly, St. Paul City council members Anika Bowie, Mitra Jalali and Nelsie Yang released a joint statement demanding the release of full unedited body camera footage to assess the police department’s adherence to use-of-force policy. 
  • Additionally, they urged a review of cultural competency training within the department, increased de-escalation training, inclusion of impacted individuals in the Police Civilian Internal Affairs Review Commission and enhanced education for law enforcement on the Hmong American community’s history and culture by the Minnesota Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training. 
  • The councilmembers expressed mourning for Xiong’s family and emphasized the need for police accountability and justice. They highlighted Xiong’s service as a decorated veteran and rejected the notion that his death, and others at the hands of police, are “inherently justified.” “Today, we honor Mr. Xiong’s surviving loved ones and recommit ourselves to action to prevent future tragedies,” they wrote. 
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