Dozens protest fatal police shooting of Austin, Minn., man

A makeshift memorial
A makeshift memorial is made on Thursday, Dec. 30, 2021, outside the Kwik Trip where 38-year-old Kouko Christopher Fiafonou was killed on Dec. 23 by Austin police officer Zachary Gast in Austin, Minn.
Courtesy of Joe Ahlquist | The Rochester Post Bulletin

Dozens of people called on the Austin Police Department Thursday to release squad car video of the fatal police shooting of Kouko Christopher Fiafonou.

The Austin, Minn., resident was shot by an officer in a gas station parking lot on Dec. 23. Police allege he confronted them while armed with a knife.

Family members and community activists dispute the official account of the incident. The crowd made their demands at a busy intersection in front of Police Department headquarters, briefly stopping traffic.

A group of protesters hold a rally.
A rally takes place outside the Mower County Law Enforcement Center on Thursday in Austin, Minn., in response to the death of 38-year-old Kouko Christopher Fiafonou, who was killed on Dec. 23 by Austin police officer Zachary Gast after a more than 24-hour standoff.
Courtesy of Joe Ahlquist | The Rochester Post Bulletin

David Kodzode traveled from his home in Iowa to protest his cousin's death. He says Fiafonou was a good man who prayed every morning and preached from the Bible.

“I'm here now protesting, seeking for justice because I just think they killed an innocent man,” Kodzode said.

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is investigating. The BCA identified the shooter as Austin police officer Zachary Gast.

Two people hug each other.
Antranette Smith, a cousin of 38-year-old Kouko Christopher Fiafonou, who was killed on Dec. 23 by Austin police officer Zachary Gast, hugs Dorothy Gales, Fiafonou's fiance, as a rally takes place outside the Mower County Law Enforcement Center on Thursday in Austin, Minn.
Courtesy of Joe Ahlquist | The Rochester Post Bulletin

Fiafonou lived with Antranette Smith, her husband and children. Smith told reporters that Austin police destroyed her home during a standoff. Police earlier said they deployed pepper gas, foam rounds and Tasers.

But Smith said the condition of her home is not as important as getting justice for Fiafonou.

“He was a peaceful man, a godly man. He believed in peace, saving everybody. They took an innocent man's life. We don't get no justice, we will never have peace,” Smith said.

A group of protesters hold a rally.
Dorothy Gales, fiance of Kouko Christopher Fiafonou, who was killed on Dec. 23 by Austin police officer Zachary Gast, leads a chant on Thursday outside the Kwik Trip where Fiafonou was killed in Austin, Minn.
Courtesy of Joe Ahlquist | The Rochester Post Bulletin

The shooting has rattled the African immigrant community in Austin, said Abang Obong.

“When I heard they shot him, I was like, 'Oh no, not in Austin,’” she said. Obong recalled the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis feeling close to home.

“And now this one is like home, home. I didn't know how to react,” she said. “That could have been my dad."

Obong said her mom worked with Fiafonou at a local pork processing plant and told her that he would often pray at work.

Twin Cities-based Communities United Against Police Brutality is raising money to help the family with expenses. 

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