The Austin Police Department has been informed that no charges will be filed stemming from an officer-involved shooting that occurred at the Kwik Trip gas station on the 1200 block of Oakland Avenue West on the evening of December 23rd, 2021 that resulted in the death of 38-year old Kokou Christopher Fiafonou of Austin.
Olmsted County Attorney Mark Ostrem provided a declination letter to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and the Mower County Attorney’s Office in that regard Tuesday. Ostrem stated in the letter that after a thorough review of the events, reports and recordings related to the fatal shooting of Fiafonou, his office concluded that the evidence does not support criminal charges against any of the officers involved, including Officer Zachary Gast of the Austin Police Department, who fired the fatal shots during the incident. Under Minnesota statute, Ostrem stated that police officers in Minnesota are justified in using deadly force in the line of duty when it is necessary to protect the officer or another person from apparent death or great bodily harm, and he added that the U.S. Supreme Court determined in a past case that the use of deadly force by a police officer must be evaluated from the perspective of a reasonable police officer on the scene and in the same circumstances.
Ostrem stated in the letter that investigators collected statements from members of the law enforcement response team at the residence on 12th St. SW where the incident had started the previous day, as well as at the convenience store, and he added that they also interviewed civilian witnesses at the convenience store as well. Video was obtained from the store as well as squad car video, all of which, according to Ostrem, clearly depicts the last few minutes of the encounter. In this case, he stated that the facts conclusively establish that Officer Gast acted reasonably when choosing to employ deadly force, and he added that Gast reasonably believed that the use of deadly force was necessary to protect himself and several members of the community from death or great bodily harm. Ostrem went on to state in the letter that Fiafonou‘s conduct and words placed Officer Gast in a position where he had no reasonable alternative to the use of deadly force. Ostrem stated that because the evidence in this case, in his view, conclusively establishes that Officer Gast‘s use of deadly force was reasonable, his office is choosing to decline prosecution stemming from the incident. Ostrem indicated that his office will not be filing a criminal complaint, and he added that they will not be presenting the case to a grand jury.