An assailant at a mall in St. Cloud, Minn., stabbed at least nine people before the suspect was shot dead by an off-duty police officer, authorities said.
Police say he was “reportedly wearing a private security uniform” and began attacking shoppers at Crossroads Center just after 8 p.m., as Minnesota Public Radio’s Tim Nelson told our Newscast unit. “Police said that the attacks occurred in several places in the mall,” he added.
“St. Cloud Police Chief Blair Anderson said that suspect made at least one reference to Allah and asked one person if they were Muslim,” as Nelson reported.
An ISIS run-news agency claimed a connection to the attack, calling the man a “soldier of the Islamic State,” as NPR’s Alison Meuse reports. She added that “ISIS often claims responsibility for attacks after the fact and it is not immediately clear whether they planned this attack or had advance knowledge of it.”
Authorities are investigating the incident as a “potential act of terrorism,” as FBI Special Agent In Charge Richard Thorton told reporters. He added: “There’s a lot we don’t know. We do not at this point in time know whether the subject was in contact with, had connections with, was inspired by, a foreign terrorist organization.”
Anderson added that those injured in the attack are expected to survive. The Associated Press reported they were taken to hospitals. Authorities initially reported eight injured but said one additional victim later checked in to the hospital.
St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis said seven men and two women were injured, ranging in age from 15 to 53.
Kleis identified the off-duty police officer who killed the suspect as Jason Falconer from the nearby Avon police department, and said he is “clearly a hero.” As Kleis described, surveillance tape from Macy’s showed the suspect lunging at Falconer as he fired on him. The suspect went down and came back up three times, he said.
“To me, in watching it, it looks like a training video for law enforcement — what law enforcement should do. Clearly he made a decision, and if not for him being there clearly this would be much worse than it was,” Kleis said.
Anderson also told reporters that the suspect was previously known to the police — he said local police had had contact three times with the suspect, and those consisted of “nothing more serious than traffic violations.”
The St. Cloud Times spoke with Danny Carranza, who was with his children in the mall when the the attack started.
“People came running around the corner and I freaked out because I thought it was a terrorist attack or something because I saw a lot of people, so I grabbed my kids,” he told the Times. “I ran as much as I could and I heard someone yell ‘Stop! Stop!’ As soon as the door shut I heard gunshots.”
Carranza made it out of the mall with his kids at the time, but the Times reports his wife was trapped in the mall for hours.