ST. CLOUD, Minn. - Former Albany Police Chief Jason Falconer is being hailed as a hero after he shot and killed a knife-wielding man Saturday night at Crossroads Center.
Falconer, who operates a Waite Park firing range and firearms training facility called Tactical Advantage, was shopping at the mall when a man entered Sears on the southeast side of the mall and stabbed 10 people on his way to Macy's on the north side of the mall. Security video in Macy's captured the suspect entering the store holding a knife and encountering Falconer, who works part-time with the Avon Police Department.
"As somebody who has had the chance to witness the surveillance tape in Macy's and witnessed what he did, he clearly prevented additional injuries and potentially loss of life," said Mayor Dave Kleis. "His heroic actions are exemplary."
Falconer identified himself as a police officer, and the suspect got down, Kleis said. Almost immediately, the suspect then lunged at Falconer with the knife.
Falconer fired once, and the suspect went down. He got up and lunged at Falconer, who shot him again. The suspect then tried again to lunge at Falconer, who fired a third shot that killed the suspect.
When the last shot was fired, the suspect was so close to Falconer that Falconer was falling backwards as the suspect came at him, Kleis said.
"He was that close," Kleis said. "Clearly, clearly the officer's life was in danger."
Investigators didn't identify the suspect Sunday, but family members said he was Dahir Adan, an Apollo High School graduate and former St. Cloud State University student.
"Clearly a hero," Kleis said of the off-duty officer. "Officer Falconer was there at the right time, at the right place."
At least one of the victims was asked by the suspect if he was Muslim, said St. Cloud Police Chief Blair Anderson. The suspect was wearing a uniform that indicated he worked for a security company, and investigators were working to determine if he worked in that capacity at the mall.
St. Cloud police had previous contact with the suspect through multiple traffic stops, Anderson said. He was not being monitored by local police for any reason, he said.
Three of the 10 stabbing victims were admitted to St. Cloud Hospital but had been discharged by Sunday evening.Five of the victims were treated and released from that hospital. A ninth victim drove himself to a hospital in Long Prairie for treatment.
The incident caught the attention of leaders statewide and prompted Gov. Mark Dayton to schedule a trip to St. Cloud on Monday.
The time from the first 911 call to when the suspect was shot and killed was approximately five minutes, Anderson said.
If not for the swift response of St. Cloud officers and from officers in surrounding jurisdictions, "this could have been a lot worse." Anderson said. He also credited Falconer for actions that were "swift and direct and, in my opinion, appropriate."
Investigators on Sunday had executed at least two search warrants at an address in St. Cloud where they searched two apartments. The suspect's vehicle, found at the mall parking lot, was impounded and searched and nothing was found in it to cause any additional concern, Anderson said.
But, the investigation is ongoing and active, he said.
"There are a lot of moving parts, and this is a fluid situation," Anderson said.
The FBI is investigating the stabbing as a "potential act of terrorism," said Richard Thornton, special agent in charge from the FBI.
"And I do say 'potential.' There is a lot we don't know," Thornton said. "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. That's what the investigation is attempting to ascertain at this point in time."
Investigators will look at the suspect's social media and electronic devices and talk to friends and family to see what motivated him to do what he did, Thornton said.
The mall doesn't have video in all of its common areas. Individual stores have their own video recording systems, and investigators are "working on piecemealing that together," said Lt. Lori Ellering.
Kleis gave some identifying information about the victims but didn't fully identify them. They range in age from 15 to 53 and all but two are men. One victim was a 15-year-old girl.
"St. Cloud is a very resilient community. St. Cloud is filled with hard-working, right-thinking, decent people, and we're going to be stronger because of this," Anderson said. "If this happened anywhere, it's happening everywhere. And yesterday was just a horrible day, not only for St. Cloud, but for the state of Minnesota and for our entire nation."