A knife-wielding man in a private security uniform who injured eight people at a mall in central Minnesota Saturday evening asked at least one victim whether they were Muslim and referenced Allah during the assault, authorities said Wednesday.
St. Cloud Police Chief William Blair Anderson said the suspect, whom he did not identify, was shot and killed by an off-duty police officer from another jurisdiction. All but one of the eight victims had been treated and released from a local hospital and all were expected to survive their injuries.
Police responded to reports of several stabbings at the Crossroads Mall at around 8:30 p.m. local time. Witnesses also reported hearing gunshots at the scene.
Anderson declined to call the attacks an act of terrorism, saying the suspect’s motive isn’t known yet. “We will be diligent and get to the bottom of this,” Anderson said. “Starting tomorrow, things won’t be the same here.”
Local police had three previous encounters with the suspect, most for minor traffic violations, Anderson said, adding that the FBI had offered to help with the investigation.
Authorities “have no reason to believe” anyone else was involved in the attacks, Anderson said. He said the stabbings occurred in several places within the mall, including corridors, businesses and common areas.
“The entire mall is an active crime scene,” Anderson said, adding that the facility would be closed on Sunday.
The mall remained on lockdown following the incident, but authorities expected those remaining inside to be released early Sunday. 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.
The attack caused chaos and prompted a lockdown of the mall, which is located approximately 70 miles northwest of Minneapolis.
“I went closer to the mall entrance by J.C. Penney’s and I was looking at some jeans and all the sudden people were just running in chaos,” worker Ashley Bayne told WCCO. “They were screaming, ‘Someone’s stabbing people in the mall,’ and people were just really frantic and were running.”
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.
“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 two 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.