Off-duty officer Jason Falconer prevented further damage by fatally shooting the suspect, the St. Cloud mayor said
Minnesota officials say the “heroic” actions of an off-duty police officer who fatally shot the suspect in the mass stabbing at a St. Cloud mall on Saturday prevented further harm.
During a Monday press conference, Chief Corey Nellis of the Avon police said Jason Falconer, a part-time officer for the department, acted “quickly and decisively” after nine people were stabbed at the Crossroads Center mall.
Falconer shot suspect Dahir A. Adan, 22, after the suspect began attacking shoppers at the mall just after 8 p.m., police said. Seven men and two women were injured, and all are expected to survive. The shooting happened in the Macy’s department store, authorities confirmed.
Falconer declined PEOPLE’s request for comment, citing an ongoing investigation.
St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis said during a Sunday press conference that Falconer is “clearly a hero.”
“Clearly he made a decision, and if not for him being there clearly this would be much worse than it was,” Kleis said.
Falconer has worked for the Avon Police Department for several years, in multiple capacities, Nellis said Monday. He also serves as a firearms instructor for the city of Avon and is a competitive shooter.
“[He’s] one of my most experienced officers at the city and I am personally grateful for his years of service with us,” Nellis said. “I am very proud of Officer Falconer’s heroic actions.”
Nellis added, “If I was going to ask anybody to fire live rounds in a crowded mall, I would trust his abilities next to anybody.”
Nellis said the officer needs “time to cope” with the incident. Falconer will not return to duty for at least two months, although that scheduling was set before Saturday’s incident, Nellis said.
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“I am deeply grateful to the heroic law enforcement officer, whose swift response prevented an even worse attack,” said Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton in a statement. “And I extend my very best wishes to the victims for their swift and complete recoveries.”
Authorities are investigating the incident, and have not ruled it out as a “potential act of terrorism,” FBI Special Agent In Charge Richard Thorton said during Sunday’s press conference.
An ISIS-tied news organization has, however, claimed a connection to the attack, reported CNN. St. Cloud Police Chief Blair Anderson said during the press conference that the suspect referenced “Allah” at least once, and asked one person if they were Muslim.
Said Thorton, “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.”
During a Monday press conference, President Barack Obama said officials see no connection between the stabbing and the explosions this weekend in New York and New Jersey. A person of interest in the bombings was taken into custody Monday after a brief shootout with police in Linden, New Jersey, that injured the suspect and two police officers.
Reporting by SUSAN KEATING