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'Hero' cop stops knife-wielding attacker's rampage at St. Cloud mall

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Rescue workers gather near Macy's at Crossroads.
Rescue workers gather near Macy's at Crossroads Center Saturday evening to investigate the multiple stabbing.
Dave Schwarz | St. Cloud Times

Updated: 9 p.m. | Posted: 6:08 a.m.

A knife-wielding suspect who was dressed in a private security uniform and made references to Allah while attacking at least nine people during a mass stabbing incident at the Crossroads Center shopping mall was shot dead by an off-duty police officer from Avon, Minn., authorities said.

Jason Falconer, former police chief of Albany, Minn., was shopping when he confronted the suspect. 

At a press conference at the police department just after noon on Sunday, St. Cloud Mayor David Kleis said he believes Falconer prevented additional injuries and loss of life. 

EMT workers move an empty stretcher.
EMT workers move an empty stretcher near an entrance to Macy's at Crossroads Center Saturday night.
Dave Schwarz | St. Cloud Times

"Clearly he is a hero. Officer Falconer was there at the right time and the right place."

Kleis said the end of the attack and the final confrontation could be seen on video from the Macy's store. Describing the video, which did not have audio, Kleis said the suspect clearly had a knife in hand, and lunged at Falconer, who fired at him. The suspect fell, then got back up three times before the fatal shot. 

"None of us ever want to have to do that," said St. Cloud Police Chief William Blair Anderson, "but that's what we're here for, and Officer Falconer's actions were swift and direct, and in my opinion appropriate."

Eight people were treated at St. Cloud Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries following the attack first reported about 8:15 p.m. Saturday at the mall. Three people were admitted, according to Chris Nelson, spokesperson for St. Cloud Hospital. By early Sunday evening, all three had been released. A ninth victim went to the Long Prairie Hospital. 

The police are working now to piece together video of the attacks. There is no central video for the mall, said Lt. Lori Ellering, the investigator in charge, but some individual stores have cameras. 

The St. Cloud police have served two search warrants, Anderson said, and police found and impounded the suspect's car. He added that nothing "suggests that it is anything other than what it appears to be now — at this time."

St. Cloud Police Chief William Blair Anderson
St. Cloud Police Chief William Blair Anderson speaks to reporters at a news conference on Sunday.
Matt Sepic | MPR News

Local police had three previous encounters with the suspect, "nothing more serious than traffic violations," Anderson said.

Authorities "have no reason to believe" anyone else was involved in the attacks, Anderson said. 

Anderson also said the suspect made at least one reference to Allah during the attack and asked at least one person whether they were Muslim.

Authorities have not named the suspect. But Abdul Kulane, executive director of Central Minnesota Community Empowerment Organization, and other Somali-American community leaders have identified the young man as Dahir Adan. 

The Crossroads Center Mall in St. Cloud is closed.
The Crossroads Center Mall in St. Cloud was closed Sunday.
Laura Yuen | MPR News

Kulane and other leaders met with Adan's father, who expressed a desire to inform the public about his son's role in the attacks. "The family doesn't want this to be speculated about," Kulane said, adding that a motivation remains unclear. "They want the facts to come out." 

The family told Kulane authorities executed the search warrants Sunday morning at two apartments occupied by the family. Family members believe Adan went to the mall to buy the iPhone 7, Kulane said. 

He also learned Adan graduated with honors from Apollo High School in St. Cloud. A spokesperson with St. Cloud State University confirmed Adan attended the college this past spring but was not currently enrolled. 

The family never sensed anything was amiss about Adan, Kulane said. 

"There was no indication this person was whatsoever in any kind of trouble. He never had a history of violence, so this is a shock to the family and the entire community," said Kulane. "We want to offer our most sincere condolences to the family and friends of the victims."

The FBI and the Joint Terrorism Task Force, along with the St. Cloud police, are investigating the incident as a potential act of terrorism. "And I do say potential," said Richard Thornton, special agent in charge of the FBI office in Minnesota. 

Thornton said they are beginning to investigate the suspect's social media accounts and electronic devices to help establish a motive for the attacks.

An Islamic State-run news agency, Rasd, claimed Sunday that the attacker was a "soldier of the Islamic State" who had heeded the group's calls for attacks in countries that are part of a U.S.-led anti-IS coalition, according to the AP and NPR.

ISIS claims responsibility for stabbings.
NPR translates this as saying, "the executor of the stabbing in Minnesota yesterday was a soldier of the Islamic State and executed this operation in response to the calls of targeting nationals of the crusader coalition countries."
Twitter

It was not immediately clear if the extremist group had planned the attack or even knew about it beforehand. IS has encouraged so-called "lone wolf" attacks. It has also claimed past attacks that are not believed to have been planned by its central leadership.

Jaylani Hussein, executive director of the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said "we are not clear at all of the aspects of this incident, including the connection to ISIS." 

Hussein and St. Cloud Somali-American leaders decried the the attack and repeatedly said they wished for peace in the community.  They spoke at a press conference Sunday afternoon that included non-Muslims from St. Cloud as well. 

Haji Yussuf, community director for #UNITECloud, a group working to reduce tensions in the city said he was worried that the attack would hurt efforts to integrate immigrants and Muslims into the historically Catholic community.

"It is very, very tough. Because it's 30 years of bridge building that was done in this community. We might end up losing that," Yussuf said.

The mall was closed Sunday while authorities investigated. It will reopen Monday.

Injuries reported at a St. Cloud shopping mall.
People stand near the entrance on the north side of Crossroads Center mall between Macy's and Target as officials investigate a multiple stabbing incident.
St. Cloud Times via AP

The mall remained on lockdown for several hours following the incident. Photos and video of the mall taken hours after the incident showed groups of shoppers waiting to be released, including some huddled together near a food court entrance.

Harley and Tama Exsted of Isle, Minn., who were in St. Cloud to watch their son play in a college golf tournament, were in the mall when the incident occurred.

"All of a sudden I heard pop, pop, pop," Harley Exsted told the St. Cloud Times. "I thought someone tipped over a shelf. All of a sudden these people started running. I just saw everybody running our way."

The couple were unharmed and said they helped another woman who was running from the scene to her car.

Adonis Samuels, 42, of St. Cloud, was outside the mall where his wife Roxanne is employed as a manager at Clinique at Macy's.

"She called me on the phone and told me she was hiding under the counter with a customer," Samuels said. She later called and said she was safe in a secured area.

Samuels remained outside, watching for her. He said he'd seen her through the glass doors at one point so he knew she was safe.

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and others praised emergency personnel in a statement Sunday.

"While we will learn more about the facts surrounding this horrific attack today, one thing we know for certain this morning: Due to the courageous actions of an off-duty area police officer, the good work of first responders, and the reaction of those present at the mall, lives were saved," Klobuchar said.

U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer said, "The citizen who stopped this evil man and ended his attack is a hero and has the gratitude and admiration of us all."  

St. Cloud is about 70 miles northwest of Minneapolis.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.