Last month, the Coalition for Justice for Yia Xiong held a press conference at St. Paul City Hall to discuss the progress—or the lack thereof—in the investigation into Xiong’s killing at the hands of law enforcement.
The coalition’s chair, Snowdon Herr, expressed frustration with the Ramsey County Attorney’s office for delaying the release of the findings in their investigation into the killing of Xiong. “We met [in the Ramsey County Attorney’s office] on July 20, and we had been told that [investigation results] will be announced sometime in September,” Herr said. “Right now, it’s mid-September,” Herr said at the time.
Snowdon said the coalition wrote a letter to Jeffrey Noble, an investigator hired by the Ramsey County Attorney’s office, to request a timeline for when the findings would be available. Herr says Noble replied that findings were delayed and would not be available until October or November.
Xiong was killed by St. Paul Police Department (SPPD) Officer Abdirahman Dahir on Feb. 11, 2023, after 911 calls were made about Xiong holding a knife at a child’s birthday party. Herr says the knife Xiong was holding was a “cuaj puam,” which is a type of traditional Hmong knife that nearly every Hmong family owns and is commonly used for cutting meat, wood, or plants while gardening.
Dahir and SPPD Officer Noushue Cha attempted to gain access to Xiong’s apartment after arriving on scene. When Xiong, who was hard of hearing and did not have a strong understanding of the English language, emerged from his apartment holding the cuaj puam, Dahir fatally shot Xiong with his rifle.
“In the last seven months, we have spoken directly to Mayor Carter, Police Chief Axel Henry, Attorney General Keith Ellison, and Ramsey County Attorney John Choi,” Herr said. “We are doing our best to push this from behind the scenes and on the ground.”
Kong Xiong (no relation to Yia Xiong) showed up to show support for Yia Xiong’s family. Kong Xiong believes that the Ramsey County Attorney’s office is delaying its findings to try and thwart the Justice For Yia Xiong Coalition.
“They’re trying to intentionally make the family wait,” Kong Xiong said. “And we know this. We’ve seen this before, especially with what they’ve done to the Black community too. We know that this is one of their tactics.”
Mai Tong Xiong, Yia Xiong’s daughter, called for the case to be brought before a jury, and spoke of mourning her father’s death.
“Instead of counting [Yia’s] birthdays, I’m counting the months, if not years, it will take to get justice,” Mai Tong Xiong said. “Instead of counting to 66, I will be starting at one, counting the anniversaries of his death. A number for each year of the life he cannot live, that he was supposed to live.”
Herr said that some elders within the Hmong community are “showing a lot of anxiety” about interacting with SPPD for fear that a language barrier could endanger their life.
“They think that if it can happen to Yia Xiong, in the same way it could happen to them because they don’t speak the language,” Herr said. “And what if they don’t speak the language? They cannot comply with what was said or ordered by the police, and they’ll get killed too.”
Michelle Gross, president of Communities United Against Police Brutality (CUAPB), affirmed CUAPB’s commitment to “continue to apply pressure on the county attorney’s office in any way that we need to,” to get the results of the investigation released for the Xiong family.
“It’s not complicated,” Gross said. The Ramsey County Attorney’s office “is making it complicated in ways that are offensive to the community, and they should end that now.
“Make a decision. And it better be the right decision, by the way. Because these officers did something very, very, very wrong. They deprived a Hmong elder and a war veteran of his life.”
Kong Xiong said he would continue to show up to advocate for Yia Xiong’s family. “We’re angry, frustrated, but we’re still fired up and ready to go.”