Weeks after St. Paul police shot and killed Yia Xiong, community members ask for more action

Hmong people hold protest signs
Yia Xiong’s sister, Yang Mee Lee (left), and community members rally outside the St. Paul police Western District office on Feb. 26 demanding justice for Xiong.
Drew Arrieta | Sahan Journal

In February, St. Paul Police Department officers 65-year-old shot and killed Yia Xiong.

Xiong was killed in his apartment complex after officers responded to a 911 call of a man threatening people with a knife after being kicked out of a party in the community room.

Officers said they found Xiong with a knife, and he allegedly did not drop the knife when asked. One officer fired a Taser and the other, a gun, fatally shooting Xiong, according to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension statement.

The Hmong community has been rallying in support of Xiong and his family, demanding an investigation and police reform.

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St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter met with Xiong’s family and members of the Hmong community Tuesday.

Journalist Katelyn Vue has been following the story closely. She is a housing reporter for Sahan Journal and spoke with All Things Considered host Tom Crann about her reporting.

Give us an idea of what sorts of demands community members have made?

There was a community meeting that happened and a big theme of that was demanding for police to be held accountable, especially the two officers that were there. The specific demands that the family are asking for is for an independent investigation to be carried out, prosecution of the officers by Attorney General Keith Ellison and again, releasing to the public all body cam footage from the incident and transcripts and names of all of the officers at the scene.

So we know that the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is conducting an investigation on this incident. What do we know about it and what can we expect?

It usually takes about 60 days for the investigation to be released, and then it'll be sent to Ramsey County Attorney John Choi, without a recommendation of whether to charge the officers or not. It's up to John Choi to make that decision. They do have to go through the investigation again to redact information, but it is expected to be released around 60 days.

A Hmong woman speaks into a microphone
Ramsey County Commissioner Mai Chong Xiong speaks at a community meeting on police reform at the East Side Freedom Library in St. Paul on Feb. 24.
Drew Arrieta | Sahan Journal

Tell me a little more about the reaction this has sparked in the community why you think it is different than previous times, if in fact it is.

Right after the incident and the body cam footage was released, many folks in the Hmong communities, especially the elders who are around the same age as Xiong, came together in a way that I feel like, you know, we haven't seen the Hmong community come before.

A lot of the young folks in the community have seen that video and seen a lot of their elders shown in that video and a lot of Hmong elders have watched it. And it was traumatizing for them — seeing someone as old as them, who doesn't speak English.

They're scared of something like that happening to them. And that really was, you know, some of the motivating factors of what continues to feel this sort of change in the community about discussions about policing.