In a story that has become all too familiar in recent years, more than a week after local cops killed a Black man possibly suffering from a mental health crisis who friends and family described as “innocent” and not deserving of being a victim of such police violence, there is growing outrage in a Minnesota community.
Protesters gathered in Austin, Texas — about 99 miles south of Minneapolis — on Thursday to demand justice for Kokou Christopher Fiafonou, an immigrant from Togo, West Africa, who was fatally shot by authorities in the parking lot of a convenience store on Dec. 23.
Fiafonou approached officers and threatened them with a machete, according to the official police narrative.
But, according to local news outlet KARE 11, without any bodycam footage to back up those claims, protesters on Thursday expressed their doubts that Fiafonou would ever do such a thing.
Witnesses claim to have seen Fiafonou wandering across traffic while wielding a machete, according to police.
When the cops arrived, they allegedly fired their Taser guns to no use, allowing Fiafonou to flee to his home.
He was shot and killed after leaving his house and walking to the convenience store, according to authorities.
Family members said that shooting and killing Fiafonou was unjustified.
“He did not deserve it! He did not deserve it!” Fiafonou’s fiancé Dorothy Gales said Thursday. “He was a father and a friend, a lover, a neighbor! He didn’t bother anybody!”
One of Fiafonou’s cousins, Kossi Adayi, who resides in Austin, launched a GoFundMe account to assist pay for her cousin’s funeral.
He said Fiafonou had “recent disabilities” and “had a job and was a very nice man who put a smile on everyone’s face.” Adayi wrote on the GoFundMe that Fiafonou “was walking home praying out loud to himself” on Dec. 22 when officers with the Austin Police Department stopped him for being loud and “harrassed [sic] him and followed him his entire way home, instead of helping him because he has recent disabilities.”
Adayi said his cousin ran home “scared for his life” after police used a Taser on him. He added that after police left Fiafonou’s house, they “came back the next day with more law enforcement instead of doctors from the hospital to help him.” Adayi said police “broke every single window in the house” and “put enough tear gas and smoke bombs in the house that it’ll kill him.”
According to Adayi, the residence’s electricity and gas were turned off, forcing Fiafonou to leave his home and go to a convenience store for food for himself and his dog. That’s when Adayi says police “instantly shot [Fiafonou] multiple times in the chest because they thought his grocery bags were a gun or a weapon.”
Antoinette Smith, the wife of one of Fiafonou’s cousins, said there was no way he could have done what the police said.
“He was a peaceful man. He was a godly man,” Smith said Thursday. “They took an innocent man’s life. We don’t get justice. We will never have peace!”
Because the Austin Police Department does not require officers to wear body cameras, their version of events is the only one that has been documented.
On Thursday, protesters demanded the release of any video captured by officers’ dashboard cameras, which have been proven to exist.
“Austin Police Department, release the video right now! If you’ve got nothing to hide, release everything you’ve got!” protesters said during the demonstration outside of the Mower County Law Enforcement Center.
Fiafonou’s brother characterized him as a devout Christian who may have been accidentally slain.
“I don’t know what happened to my brother,” David Kodzode said Thursday. “The last time we were together Kokou Christopher would begin each day with prayers. I think they just killed an innocent man.”
Fiafonou was killed on the same day that former Minnesota cop Kim Potter was found guilty of manslaughter in the death of 20-year-old motorist Daunte Wright.
When she shot Wright, Potter claimed she mistook her Taser for a gun.
During Potter’s trial, video from bodycams and dashcams was crucial to her conviction.