ISIS claimed responsibility after a knife-wielding man injured eight people at a mall in central Minnesota Saturday evening, a bloody rampage during which he reportedly asked at least one victim whether they were Muslim and referenced Allah.
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. Five of the eight victims had been treated and released from a local hospital and all were expected to survive their injuries.
ISIS on Sunday morning claimed responsibility for the attack, issuing a statement via a source to its Amaq news service.
“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,” the statement said.
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.
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.
“The FBI is actively engaged at the scene with the St. Cloud Police Department,” the bureau said in a statement Sunday. “Law enforcement is in the process of ascertaining the facts as to what occurred last night.”
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.
“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.