ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Relatives of a man who was fatally shot by St. Paul police argued Saturday that the 65-year-old struggled to understand orders to drop a traditional Hmong knife because of a language barrier and extreme hearing loss.
The St. Paul Pioneer Press reports that more than 20 relatives of Yia Xiong gathered Saturday in the city to mourn his death and ask for justice.
Police responded 12 February to a report of a man threatening people with the 16-inch knife inside a community room. Investigators said St. Paul Police Officers Abdirahman Dahir and Noushue Cha encountered him in hallway that led to his apartment. But Xiong did not respond to their commands to drop the knife, according to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.
Instead, he turned to unlock his apartment door and went inside. The BCA said that the officers kicked the door to stop it from fully shutting and ordered him to come out.
They then backed away from the door and down the short hallway. Xiong opened the door and stepped into the hallway, knife still in-hand. That’s when the officers fired, Dahir using a rifle, and Cha a Taser, investigators said.
Through tears, his family spoke of a man who had lost his hearing while fighting in the U.S. Secret War in Laos, and who despite not speaking English worked hard to support his family after moving to America.
His younger brother, Wallor Xiong, said Yia Xiong couldn’t hear anything, even when people spoke in his native Hmong language, unless someone was close by and yelling at him. He was in the process of helping his brother get hearing aids.
“He cannot hear anyone, he doesn’t speak English and they opened the door and just shot him,” Wallor Xiong said. “They just shot him like an animal, and it just broke my heart.”