Prosecutors decide not to charge officer who fatally shot Yia Xiong

The Ramsey County Attorney’s Office and the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office jointly announced on Wednesday that they’ve decided not to file charges against the St. Paul officer who fatally shot Yia Xiong, 65.

RELATED: Community members say SPPD fatal shooting of Yia Xiong could have ended differently

Ramsey County Attorney John Choi had asked Attorney General Keith Ellison to help review the shooting.

The two agencies said that their decision comes after an investigation by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, both offices reviewing the case file and an independent review by use-of-force expert Jeff Noble. The BCA, as is usual, presented its findings without recommendation to the two prosecutors.

After reviewing the evidence, the two offices determined that the use of deadly force by Officer Abdirahmin Dahir was justified.

A blood sample taken from Xiong tested positive for ethanol and had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.204 g/100 ml, according to a memorandum sent to Choi and Ellison.

Noble also found that “Officer Dahir’s use of deadly force against Mr. Xiong was objectively reasonable under Minnesota law and consistent with generally accepted police practices.”

“I am of the opinion that Officers Dahir and Cha’s lives were in imminent danger of death
or serious bodily injury at the moment when Officer Dahir used deadly force by shooting
Mr. Xiong,” Noble stated in the memorandum. “Mr. Xiong was holding a knife in front of his body with both hands; the officers were aware that it was reported that Mr. Xiong had threatened others with the knife prior to their arrival; Mr. Xiong failed to obey the officers’ commands with the exception of
briefly showing his empty hands; Mr. Xiong exited his apartment and moved toward the
officers and was only a few feet away; and although the officers were retreating at the
moment that Officer Cha deployed his taser and when Officer Dahir fired his patrol rifle,
Mr. Xiong was advancing toward the officers.”

The two offices also declined to charge Officer Noushue Cha, who deployed his Taser at around the same time Dahir fired his patrol rifle.

As previously reported, St. Paul officers responded to Winslow Commons, an affordable housing complex for seniors and people with disabilities on the 100 block of Western Avenue South, on Feb. 11, 2023. Officers were told that a man was threatening residents with a knife.

Officers found the man, later identified as Xiong, in a hallway holding a knife. Officers told Xiong to drop the knife but he didn’t respond and went inside his apartment at the end of the hallway, the BCA said.

The officers kicked the door to stop it from shutting, told Xiong to come out and then backed away from the door. Xiong came outside, still holding the knife, according to the BCA.

Cha then deployed his Taser and Dahir fired his department rifle, hitting Xiong. Despite efforts to provide first aid, Xiong died at the scene.

He had been shot five times.

BCA crime scene personnel recovered a 16-inch traditional Hmong knife from the scene, the agency said.

Ramsey County Attorney John Choi released the following statement with his decision not to charge the officers involved:

“Anytime deadly force is used by the government, it is a tragedy for all those involved, and it requires prosecutors to seek the truth without bias, fear, or favor and do the right thing. The facts of this case and our use of force expert’s opinion led us to conclude that Officer Abdirahmin Dahir’s use of deadly force was justified under the law and that no criminal charges are appropriate. I am deeply saddened that this legal decision may deepen the pain for Mr. Yia Xiong’s family and community members who wanted something different. I want to thank Attorney General Keith Ellison and his staff for joining my office in reviewing this tragic case.”

Attorney General Keith Ellison also released a statement:

“Mr. Xiong’s life was precious and important, and his death was tragic. His family and community continue to cherish his memory. This is why we took much care in evaluating the facts of his death. Our determination in this case is and must be based on what the law requires, and it is a responsibility we take with the greatest seriousness even as we hold the victim and his family in our hearts and minds. I thank County Attorney Choi for entrusting my office and me with assisting them in this matter of great importance to all parties and the community.”