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Man, officer identified in Dec. 23 fatal shooting in Austin

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension announced Tuesday that 38-year-old Kokou Christopher Fiafonou, of Austin, died of multiple gunshot wounds.

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AUSTIN — The man killed in Austin late last week following a more than 24-hour stand-off was identified by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension on Tuesday.

The BCA announced that 38-year-old Kokou Christopher Fiafonou, of Austin, died as a result of multiple gunshot wounds. His death has been ruled a homicide. The ruling is a term used by medical examiner's as a way to state that a person's death occurred at the hands of another. It does not necessarily imply criminal intent.

A two-year veteran of the Austin Police Department was identified as the officer who fired his weapon. He is officer Zachary Gast. Gast has been placed on standard administrative leave.

Austin Police Chief David McKichan wrote in a news release Friday afternoon that Fiafonou confronted officers with a knife Thursday night and was shot by an officer. The BCA said in its news release Tuesday that a knife was recovered at the scene near Fiafonou's body.

Austin police do not use body-worn cameras, but squad cameras captured portions of the incident, according to the BCA news release.

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Social media reports from those who say they are related to the man refute some of the police's narrative about the incident. Attempts to reach the family through an online fundraising page and other social media have been unsuccessful.

Police said last week at the incident began about 3:45 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 22, in the area of Seventh Street Northwest and Eighth Avenue Northwest. A man was walking in traffic and holding a knife, according to initial reports.

When officers arrived, they found the man with a machete. Officers attempted to speak with him, but were unsuccessful and officers followed the man into a residence, according to the Austin Police Department's news release.

Over the course of more than 24 hours, police as well as members of the Special Incident Response Team, including trained negotiators, used Tasers, pepper gas and less-lethal foam impact bullets in an attempt to bring Fiafonou into custody. Fiafonou allegedly threatened to harm other people.

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By 6 p.m. Thursday, the law enforcement presence on scene was reduced to uniformed officers posted in the area to monitor the situation. About 9:30 p.m., the man left the apartment complex and walked to the Kwik Trip in the 1200 block of Oakland Avenue West.

Officers followed him to the gas station's parking lot, where Fiafonou reportedly "confronted" officers with a knife.

"At one point, one officer discharged their firearm, striking the male," McKichan wrote in the news release.

The BCA’s investigation of the shooting is ongoing. When the investigation is complete, the BCA will provide its findings without recommendations to the Mower County Attorney’s Office for review.

Emily Cutts is the Post Bulletin's public safety reporter. She joined the Post Bulletin in July 2018 after stints in Vermont and Western Massachusetts.
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