BREAKING: BCA releases names in officer-involved shooting

Published 3:14 pm Tuesday, December 28, 2021

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The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension has released both the names of the man who was killed and the Austin Police officer involved in a shooting last week at an Austin Kwik Trip.

The BCA has identified the police officer as Zachary Gast, who according to a BCA release Tuesday, has been with the department for two years. He is currently on standard administrative leave.

The man who was shot was identified by the Southern Minnesota Medical Examiner’s Office as Kokou Christopher Fiafonou, 38, of Austin. According to the SMME report, Fiafonou died of multiple gunshot wounds.

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The shooting took place a little after 9:30 p.m. on Thursday night in the parking lot of Kwik Trip located in the 1200 block of Oakland Avenue West.

According to a press release from Austin Police Chief David McKichan last Friday, the male was armed with a knife and confronted officers who had followed the subject from an apartment in the 1200 block of Fourth Avenue NW.

At one point an officer, identified as Gast, discharged his firearm and struck Fiafonou, who died at the scene as officers rendered medical aid and called for an ambulance.

According to the  BCA release, a knife was recovered at the scene near Fiafonou’s body. While APD does not use body cameras, squad car video captured portions of the incident.

Thursday night’s incident was the end result of a situation that APD called a “mental health crisis.” At around 3:45 p.m. on Dec. 22, officers were dispatched to the area of Seventh Street and Eighth Avenue NW on a report of a male walking in traffic, holding a knife.

“Officers located the subject, who was armed with a machete, in public and attempted to gain verbal compliance from the subject,” McKichan said Friday. “That was ineffective and the subject was followed into a residence.”

Officers attempted to take the male into custody after several Tasers were deployed, but were unable to do so.

At that time, the subject retreated further into an apartment complex in the 1200 block of Fourth Avenue NW, where according to APD, the subject threatened to hurt other people.

The standoff lasted for 24 hours. During that time the Austin/Mower Special Incident Response Team (SIRT), including trained negotiators, responded to the incident.

“Over the next 24 plus hours, officers attempted to negotiate with the individual to come to a peaceful resolution,” McKichan’s statement read.

During the standoff Thursday night, several pops could be heard and SIRT members were observed tossing canisters into two upstairs windows of the apartment.

The statement confirms that pepper gas and less lethal foam impact mutations were used, but were not effective. At around 6 p.m. Thursday night, the police presence was drawn down to uniformed officers posted in the area, who continued to monitor the situation and ensure public safety.

At around 9:30 p.m. the male exited the apartment complex and walked to the Kwik Trip, followed by officers.

A GoFundMe page for Fiafonou claims he had been suffering from a mental disorder, but also said he was a gentleman who put a smile on everyone’s face.

The BCA said Tuesday that the investigation of the shooting is ongoing. When completed, the BCA will send its findings, without recommendation, to the Mower County Attorney’s Office for review.