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St. Paul community calls for justice after killing of Hmong veteran by police

St. Paul community members gathered to protest the police killing of a Hmong American veteran on Feb. 11.

More than 100 people showed up to the vigil and rally for Yia Xiong outside of the apartment complex where he was killed, Star Tribune reported. Among their demands are for the police to be fired and criminally charged.

Yia Xiong, 65, was shot and killed by police after they responded to a call from residents that Xiong was threatening them with a knife, according to a release from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. 

When police approached Xiong’s apartment, they say Xiong did not respond to demands from police for him to drop his weapon. Body camera footage released on Feb. 17 showed that they fired a taser and rifle at Xiong, where he died at the scene. 

Activists and family members believe that Xiong’s hearing loss from fighting in the Vietnam War and inability to understand English led to his murder by the police, according to the Star Tribune. 

Xiong’s spouse, See Xiong, addressed protesters, Sahan Journal reported.

“I am saddened today,” Xiong said. “My children will not have a father. I myself will not have a husband, and we are living at the darkest time at this point.”

Xiong’s family stated that someone going to a party in the building may have threatened Xiong with a gun, CBS reported. 

“He wouldn’t have just threatened anyone for no reason,” Xiong’s niece Priscilla Xiong said to the Star Tribune.

“My dad is a very kind person,” Xiong’s daughter Mai Tong Xiong told CBS News. “He adored everybody.”

Hmong community organizer Snowdon Herr rallied the protestors in chanting “No English, no shooting,” according to the Star Tribune. 

“[Xiong] did not know what to do so he got killed … instantly,” Herr said to the group of protestors. 

Representatives from Black Lives Matter and Communities United Against Police Brutality also led the march to outside the St. Paul Police Department’s office. 

“It’s horrific what has happened, once again, in the city of St. Paul,” Monique Cullars-Doty of Black Lives Matter Minnesota told the Star Tribune. “They shoot first and ask questions later.”

Minnesota state senator Susan Pha also attended the protest and stated that the police department needs to revisit their officer training and how they resolve conflict, according to the Sahan Journal.

“This was such a tragic incident that could’ve been prevented,” Pha said. “There were plenty of opportunities for de-escalation of the situation that could’ve led to a different outcome.”

The two officers are currently on paid leave, according to CBS.

The president of the St. Paul police union also told CBS that the shooting was justified and that the officers acted heroically in the face of grave danger.

Organizers state that they plan to hold more protests and community gatherings, Sahan Journal reported. Xiong’s family also created a GoFundMe fundraiser to cover legal fees and funeral expenses associated with seeking justice for Xiong, which has raised over $4,000.

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