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A suspect in a series of stabbing attacks at a St. Cloud shopping mall Saturday night was killed inside the mall by an off-duty officer, according to St. Cloud police.

In a media briefing after midnight Sunday, St. Cloud police chief William Blair Anderson said an off-duty officer from another jurisdiction confronted and killed the suspect. He said the suspect — who was dressed in a private security uniform — reportedly asked at least one victim whether they were Muslim before assaulting them, and referred to Allah during the attacks.

Anderson declined to call the stabbing a terrorist attack, saying the motive for the attacks isn’t known yet. “We will be diligent and get to the bottom of this,” Anderson said, adding that St. Cloud Police had prior contact with the suspect, but only related to traffic stops.

“It’s an awful day,” Anderson said, adding that St. Cloud “won’t be the same” after the attack.

Officers responded to a report of several stabbings at Crossroads Center mall about 8:15 p.m. Witnesses reported hearing gunshots as well, but it’s not known if the reports stemmed from the same incident.

The stabbings occurred in several places within the mall: corridors, businesses and common areas.
“The entire mall is an active crime scene,” Anderson said.

The shooting happened inside Macy’s, according to St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis.

Anderson said eight people had been taken to the hospital, and all but one had been released.

The mall remained on lockdown after 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.

Harley and Tama Exsted of Isle, Minnesota, who were in St. Cloud to watch their son play in a college golf tournament, were in the mall when the incident occurred.

“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 mall attack got national exposure when Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton mentioned it, saying she’d been briefed about the incident as well as explosions in New York and New Jersey, according to the Associated Press. She called on the nation to support first responders and to pray for victims and told reporters traveling with her that she will have more to say when more is known about the incidents, according to AP reports.

The mall will be closed until further notice.

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