September 2016 – MINNESOTA – The man who stabbed nine people at a Minnesota mall Saturday before being shot dead by an off-duty police officer was a “soldier of the Islamic state,” according to an ISIS-linked news agency. The statement posted online Sunday by the Amaq agency follows a pattern of ISIS-related media claiming responsibility for what appear to be the acts of individuals across Europe in the past few months. CNN cannot independently confirm this latest claim.
“We still don’t have anything substantive that would suggest anything more than what we know already, which is this was a lone attacker,” St. Cloud Police Chief William Blair Anderson told CNN’s Jake Tapper Sunday. “And right now, we’re trying to get to the bottom of his motivations.” The FBI is calling the attack “a potential act of terrorism.” Police and witnesses said the man, wearing a private security company uniform, entered Crossroads Mall on Saturday night around 8 p.m. ET, made a reference to Allah and asked at least one person if they were Muslim before he attacked.
St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis said three people remain hospitalized, including one person who is in a life-threatening condition. Ashley Bayne, an employee of JC Penney at the mall, was visiting a coworker at the time of the incident. “All of sudden chaos just broke out,” she told CNN’s Nick Valencia on Sunday. “There was a bunch of people running into the JC Penney mall entrance, and they were just screaming that someone was going around the mall stabbing people, and that there was blood everywhere. It was just honestly a really scary experience.” Bayne said she ran out to the parking lot and took off in her car.
The stabbings occurred in multiple locations inside the mall, including the common area and in several stores. The mall has security teams on site but they are not armed. While the attacker was not identified, authorities said he’d had three previous encounters with police. Anderson said most of the encounters were for minor traffic violations. None resulted in an arrest. The mayor and police chief praised Jason Falconer, an off-duty police officer from nearby Avon, for killing the suspect as the assailant threatened other people in the mall.
Falconer is a part-time officer for Avon and a former police chief of Albany, Minnesota, the officials said at a news conference Sunday afternoon. Both officials said they had viewed a surveillance tape from a Macy’s store which revealed details of the confrontation. “Officer Falconer was there at the right time at the right place,” Mayor Kleis said. “His heroic actions are exemplary of having witnessed what he did as the suspect was lunging at him with a knife. Not only did he fire, the suspect went down, came back up on three different occasions. He protected others from being injured and potentially loss of life. Clearly, a hero.” –CNN