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BCA identifies victim, officer in fatal police shooting in Austin

The officer has been with the police department for two years.
Kokou Christopher Fiafonou

Kokou Christopher Fiafonou

Authorities have identified the police officer and man he fatally shot following a 24-hour standoff in Austin.

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) on Tuesday identified the Austin police officer as Zachary Gast, who has been with the department for two years. 

Gast fatally shot Kokou Christopher Fiafonou, 38, on Dec. 23, with the medical examiner saying he died of multiple gunshot wounds, the BCA said. 

Investigators found a knife near Fiafonou's body, the BCA said.

Austin police last week said Gast opened fire in the Kwik Trip gas station parking lot around 9:30 p.m. on Dec. 23 following the end of a 24-hour standoff at a nearby apartment building that had started at 3:45 p.m. the day prior (Dec. 22).

Police responded to 7th Street Northwest and 8th Avenue Northwest Wednesday on a report of a man walking in traffic while holding a machete. Police said the man failed to respond to verbal commands and Tasers were "ineffective."

Fiafonou then went into an apartment building on the 1200 block of 4th Avenue Northwest, where he allegedly "threatened to hurt other people," police said. 

Negotiators spoke with Fiafonou for more than 24 hours during which police used "pepper gas and less-lethal foam," which were also "ineffective."

Fiafonou left the apartment around 9:30 p.m. on Dec. 23 and walked to the nearby Kwik Trip. Police say in the parking lot of the gas station, the man "confronted officers," and Gast opened fire. 

Fiafonou died at the scene. A GoFundMe page set up to help with funeral expenses says he suffered from a mental disorder and was praying out loud when police started harassing him. 

The BCA is handling the investigation into Fiafonou's death. When the BCA finishes its investigation, it will send the case to the Mower County Attorney's Office, which will consider charges against the officer. 

Note: The details provided in this story are based on the police’s latest version of events, and may be subject to change.

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