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St. Paul Police release bodycam video from fatal shooting of man with knife

A three-minute video posted on the department's YouTube page Friday appears to show officers yelling at Yia Xiong to drop a large knife before he was shot.

ST PAUL, Minn. — The Saint Paul Police Department has released a series of videos from two body-worn cameras that show the moment a 65-year-old man was shot and killed by officers on Feb. 11 in the 100 block of Western Ave.

The cameras, worn by Officers Noushue Cha and Abdirahman Dahir, show police entering the St. Paul apartment building where residents reported a man was threatening people with a knife. The officers made contact with the suspect, identified as Yia Xiong, outside of an apartment doorway.

In the video, voices can be heard yelling at Xiong to "drop the knife" and get on the ground, at which point Xiong enters an apartment. An officer is seen pushing open the door behind Xiong, who comes back out holding what appears to be a large knife.

A voice is heard screaming "stop" as Xiong walks out of the door before multiple shots are fired, the video shows. According to the BCA, Officer Dahir, who has one year of law enforcement experience, fired his department rifle during the encounter. Officer Che, who also has one year of law enforcement experience, deployed his Taser.

Still images taken from the video show Xiong holding the knife in the hallway and officers picking up a large knife. On Tuesday, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension said crime scene personnel recovered a 16-inch traditional Hmong knife at the scene.

The three-minute video, edited by SPPD, was posted on the department's YouTube page Friday afternoon. WARNING: The video contains clips and photos that are graphic and might be disturbing. Click here to watch on YouTube.

Both Officer Dahir and Officer Cha were placed on standard administrative leave.

“Any loss of life is tragic, and we’re keeping the family and friends of Mr. Xiong in our thoughts as they grieve and look for answers,” said Saint Paul Chief of Police Axel Henry in a statement. “We know there aren’t words to alleviate their pain, but we hope the release of these videos will help them begin to understand what happened."

"At the same time, we are thinking about our community members and officers who are also affected. We are a tight-knit city, and what affects one of us affects all of us," Henry added. "That’s why we’re going to stand together and do everything we can to support one another while the BCA completes its investigation.”

During a press conference Friday afternoon, Chief Henry went into detail about the department's protocol, saying they use a "less lethal option" prior to firing their guns.

"We always try to deploy — and in this case we did — a less lethal option, (which) is what that's titled with a Taser," Chief Henry said. "We also have other options like that, but we always have the presence of that backup piece of equipment to make sure that if that less lethal option is not going to work, that other piece of equipment is in place."

Chief Henry said he couldn't go into much detail due to the BCA's ongoing investigation.

After the news conference, several members of the Hmong American community gathered together outside St. Paul Police headquarters, joined by Ward 6 City Council Member Nelsie Yang. She said she's planning to organize a community meeting about the police shooting in the coming days. 

Yang criticized the SPPD response last Saturday. She said in her view of the body camera video, the officers "provoked" Xiong into coming out of the apartment before the shooting occurred.

"That was clearly what I saw. It was so heartbreaking to see that, because I think that this could have turned out a very different way. Yia Xiong should still be alive today," Yang said. "What's going to be important is holding our police accountable, and making sure this doesn't happen again."

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