As the nation’s eyes were focused on the explosion in Manhattan, nine people were stabbed at the Crossroads Center Mall in the American heartland by a suspect in a private security uniform who referenced Allah and asked at least one victim if he was Muslim.
The above details were outlined by the St. Cloud police chief in a midnight news conference on the September 17 mass stabbing, which occurred in a central Minnesota community of about 67,000 people in an area usually isolated from terrorism concerns. On September 18, the stabber was identified by Minnesota newspapers as Dahir Adan, an African immigrant and member of the local Somali community who is a college student and private security guard.
However, authorities have not officially identified the suspect; The Minneapolis Star-Tribune says Adan’s father identified him as the suspect and search warrants were conducted at his apartment, and The St. Cloud Times says Somali community leaders ID’d Adan as the stabber too.
The ISIS news agency released a statement claiming the St. Cloud attack and calling the unidentified suspect a “soldier” for the Islamic State. Authorities had not verified the claim.
“It has hit home for us,” St. Cloud Police Chief William Blair Anderson said in the news conference of the attack. “It’s an awful day. Starting tomorrow, things won’t be the same.”
Asked on September 17 if he would call the mass stabbing at the Midwestern mall a terrorist attack, he said, “Not yet.” He said police needed to investigate and do their due diligence. “What we know is it is a lone suspect…Whether that was a terrorist attack, we are not willing to say that right now because we just don’t know.” However, the following day, authorities, including the FBI, said in a second news conference that the stabbing is being investigated as terrorism.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Attacker Was Wearing a Private Security Uniform When He Started Stabbing People & Mentioning Allah
The chief said the suspect, armed with a knife, entered the busy mall around 8 p.m. and “made some references to Allah, and we have confirmed that he asked at least one person if they were Muslim before he assaulted them. We do know there were approximately eight people transported to the St. Cloud Hospital with non life-threatening injuries.” Authorities said Sunday nine people were stabbed.
“The executor of the stabbing attacks in Minnesota yesterday was a soldier of the Islamic State and carried out the operation in response to calls to target the citizens of countries belonging to the crusader coalition,” said the statement by Amaq Agency, the news agency for ISIS.
However, The Associated Press said that the FBI is still analyzing Adan’s background to determine any terrorism links.
Anderson said the mall remained an active crime scene past midnight. The chief said the suspect had “at least one knife…big enough to hurt someone” but no gun. He said police had no indication anyone else was involved. He said the stabbings occurred in multiple locations, different businesses and common areas, within the busy shopping center.
The chief said the suspect was wearing a private security uniform, and police had at least three previous contacts with the suspect for mostly minor traffic violations.
St. Cloud Mayor David Kleis said the stabbings started inside the Macy’s store in the mall, The Minneapolis Star-Tribune said.
2. An Off-Duty Police Officer Shot & Killed the Attacker Inside the Mall
Jason Falconer was hailed as a hero by the St. Cloud mayor and others for stopping the attack by shooting and killing Adan inside the mall. Falconer is a former police chief, off-duty police officer, gun range owner, and concealed carry advocate.
“The suspect was confronted by an off duty police officer and summarily shot and killed….no customers were killed,” Chief Anderson said in the midnight news conference (watch it above). The officer was named on Sunday as the off-duty cop, who owns a gun range and company called Tactical Advantage.
Falconer confronted Adan in a dangerous drama captured on surveillance video inside the mall; authorities said that Adan lunged three times toward Falconer, who identified himself as a police officer before opening fire.
You can read the first St. Cloud police news release here:
Exact injuries of those stabbed were not clear, but The St. Cloud Times said five people were released from the hospital by Sunday morning, and “three were admitted with injuries that were not life-threatening.” Authorities added a ninth victim to the tally, but they said all are expected to survive.
The Somali community in Minnesota has condemned the attack, said ABC News. Minnesota started seeing waves of Somali refugees in the early 1990s. CBS local says local charity groups and strong benefits helped attract Somali immigrants to Minnesota.
The Somali museum of Minnesota says the state is home to the United States’ largest Somali diaspora. In July three Somali immigrants were convicted in Minnesota of plotting to join ISIS, says MPRNews. Yahoo News says nine Minnesota Somalis overall have been accused of plotting to join the Islamic State since 2014; Donald Trump previously provoked criticism on the campaign trail when he quoted a Washington Times article that had called Minnesota a rich recruiting pool for ISIS due to its levels of Somali immigration. The Times article said 30,000 Somalis live in Minnesota.
3. The Mall Was Locked Down & Customers Were Not Allowed to Leave Without IDs
Police said earlier on Saturday night that the mall was still on lockdown, and officers were conducting “precautionary searches” of businesses in the shopping center on Saturday evening. Onlookers posted videos on YouTube of police updating people locked inside the mall. See the first one above.
The scene was chaotic, and details unfolded quickly. Fox 9 reported that six people were injured and one person was dead in the unfolding incident. Later in the evening, though, KSTP said at least eight people had been stabbed, but their conditions were unknown.
A second video posted on YouTube also showed an officer updating people inside the mall. The officer said, “We’re going to try to get everybody out of here, but it’s going to take a minute.” He said people needed to show picture IDs to get out. “Calm down, it’s going to take awhile,” the officer said as groans erupted from the crowd of people in the mall. “Be patient. We’ll get you out as soon as we can.”
Amy Klobuchar, a Democratic U.S. Senator from Minnesota, released this statement:
The St. Cloud Times said a major police response was apparent at the scene, and the incident was reported at 8:30 p.m. The St. Cloud police told the newspaper that “a stabbing report started the incident… there are multiple confirmed victims and police believe the suspect is dead.”
4. One Witness Saw Victims Walking Around the Mall With Blood on Them
WCCO interviewed an eyewitness, Ashley Bayne, who works at the J.C. Penney store in the mall. She told WCCO: “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. They were screaming, ‘Someone’s stabbing people in the mall,’ and people were just really frantic and were running.”
KARE 11 talked to an eyewitness who said people were walking around with blood on them.
One man on Twitter claimed that the suspect was shot by someone with a concealed carry permit; however, this detail was not confirmed or denied by the chief, who said an off-duty officer shot the suspect. However, it’s clear that Falconer is a concealed carry advocate, in addition to being a firearms trainer.
There were early unconfirmed reports of a possible active shooter.
One woman reported on Twitter that she was currently in hiding in the mall. One report said on Facebook: “Multiple gunshot and stabbing victims at the Crossroads Mall. Mall is blocked off by Macy’s and police are not allowing anyone in or out of the mall. There are reports that several victims have been brought out but no official reports as of yet.” However, it is not uncommon in early reports of fast-unfolding situations for some details to change as new information comes in. It now turns out there was one person who died from being shot: The attacker. The gunfire people heard was Falconer saving people’s lives while taking Adan’s.
Others also expressed their emotions on Twitter.
People were reportedly evacuating through the food court. News reporters said people were asked for identification to leave the mall:
There were reports of multiple ambulances at the scene. The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported early on in the incident that the situation was so chaotic that police dispatchers were initially too busy to comment to the news media about the number of injuries or what was going on.
5. The Minnesota Attack Occurred Around the Same Time as an Explosion in Manhattan
Fox 9 said police in St. Cloud were still trying to piece together what happened. The chief said that authorities had no information the stabbing attack was connected to any other incidents on September 17, as, across the country, the nation was transfixed on the horrors of an explosion that injured 29 in New York.
The news broke around the same time that reports came in of the explosion in the Chelsea area of Manhattan, which left at least 29 people injured, one of them seriously, according to the New York Post. However, there was no indication of any connection.
Earlier in the day, an explosion occurred in a trash can at the starting line of a Marine run in New Jersey.
The incident also came the day after a deadly rampage in which six people, including two police officers were shot by Nicholas Glenn in Philadelphia.