'You won't be seeing me again': FBI details St. Cloud mall attack

St. Cloud police chief Blair Anderson plays video
St. Cloud police chief Blair Anderson plays video of an attack on a store clerk during last month's stabbing that left 10 people wounded at a St. Cloud mall.
Jon Collins | MPR News

Updated: Oct. 7, 8:15 a.m. | Posted: Oct. 6, 11:20 a.m.

Minutes before he began stabbing customers at St. Cloud's Crossroads Center mall, Dahir Ahmed Adan stopped at a local gas station where he was a regular.

FBI Special Agent Rick Thornton
FBI Special Agent Rick Thornton laid out a harrowing narrative of Adan's life in the months leading up to the Sept. 17 attacks as well as the attacks themselves.
Peter Cox | MPR News

"See you later," a store employee offered as Adan was leaving. Adan replied: "You won't be seeing me again."

Soon, after hitting a bicyclist and running a red light, he was outside the mall with two knives from his parents' cutlery. He slashed someone then moved inside, triggering a spasm of terror — some of it captured in graphic store video — that ended when he was shot and killed by an off-duty cop.

Federal and local authorities on Thursday laid out the harrowing narrative of Adan's life in the months leading up to the Sept. 17 attacks as well as the attacks themselves, where Adan roamed the mall in a security guard uniform.

Caution, contains some violence

The preliminary investigation of Adan's actions leading up to the rampage suggests he "may have been radicalized," FBI Special Agent Rick Thornton said Thursday as he dismissed rumors that Adan had been provoked at the mall. The attack, he said, was premeditated.

"He arrived home from work, although he was not scheduled to return to work until 10 p.m. that evening, he did not change out of his security gaurd uniform," Thornton said of Adan. "When asked by family why he was still in his uniform and not sleeping, which was his normal routine, he told them, he had work to do tonight."

Thornton and other officials also praised the heroism of Jason Falconer, the off-duty officer who shot and killed Adan after the attacker came at him several times. Stearns County authorities said Falconer's use of deadly force was justified and that he shouted numerous times he was a police officer as he ordered Adan to drop the weapons.

The mall stabbings left 10 people wounded; none had life-threatening injuries.

Thornton on Thursday confirmed that Adan asked several people during the attacks if they were Muslim and that during one stabbing was heard to say,"Allahu akbar," the Arabic phrase for God is great.

Thornton described Adan, 20, as someone who had been more interested in basketball and Xbox games than religion but then changed in the months before the attack.

He "went from being an excellent student with a high GPA to flunking out of college, almost overnight," Thornton said.

Thornton said the investigation is ongoing. The FBI is tracing Adan's social media and other digital activity. He also said Adan's iPhone is locked and the FBI is assessing its next steps in gaining access.

But the "totality" of what they know now about Adan suggests "he may have been radicalized, either with the influence of others or on his own," Thornton said.

The state-run news agency for the ISIS terror group claimed Adan 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-ISIS coalition.

Authorities on Thursday didn't detail the nature of Adan's likely radicalization or who specifically might have influenced him.

Some in the community were skeptical about the FBI's conclusions. The St. Cloud chapter of the Somali American Relations Council released a statement saying the fact that he recently started reading the Quran is not evidence that he'd been radicalized.

"Does that show any criminal intent?" the statement from the group said. "The dots don't connect. There are missing pieces."

But using store video, investigators laid out a stunning and graphic story of the attacks in minute-by-minute fashion and of a suspect who kept attacking even while shot and bleeding.

Following his ominous parting words at the gas station, Adan hit a bicyclist who rolled up onto the car hood, his glasses wedged between the hood and windshield. Adan didn't stop.

Inside the mall, Adan stabbed a store clerk. The public panic led to the confrontation with Falconer, who'd been shopping at Bath & Body Works.

Thornton said Adan had asked Falconer if he was Muslim. Falconer, said no but saw the knives and identified himself as an officer.

Adan initially turned away from Falconer and the officer followed repeating that he was law enforcement and ordering the man to drop the weapons.

"Upon following Adan into Macy's and repeatedly announcing his authority and commands to drop the knives, Adan ran toward Falconer with the knives raised two separate times, then continued to crawl toward him with a knife in his hand even after being shot during to separate prior charges at the officer," Thornton said.

Falconer fired 10 rounds, striking Adan six times, he added. Store video showed Falconer shooting while backing away from Adan as the attacker continued to approach with his back turned.

Adan fell to the ground multiple times after being shot and still had a knife in hand. He tried to get up a final time using a store sign for balance.

Abdulwahid Osman, an attorney representing Adan's family, said they were equally shocked by the video and that they did not see any evidence leading up to the attacks that Dahir was becoming radicalized or that his behavior was changing.

"Their message today is a message of peace, of unity and tolerance in Minnesota," Osman said of the family.

"This is not the son that they knew," he added. "They knew a son that was loving and hardworking. They are looking for answers."

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