ST. CLOUD, Minn. -- All eight victims stabbed by a lone attacker Saturday night at a St. Cloud mall are expected to survive, local officials said early Sunday morning.
Mayor Dave Kleis said at a press conference shortly after midnight at Crossroads Center that one of the victims was admitted to a local hospital, but the other had received treatment and were set to be released.
“This obviously could have been a lot worse but for the response from not only the St. Cloud Police Department, but also surrounding agencies,” said St. Cloud Police chief Blair Anderson.
The lone male suspect was killed by law enforcement at the mall minutes after emergency calls were received at 8:15 p.m. Saturday, Anderson said.
Anderson said the suspect was wearing a private security uniform and asked victims if they were Muslim before attacking them with a knife.
Investigators have not ruled out the stabbings as a terrorist attack.
“It’s an awful day,” Anderson said. “We had 8 victims assaulted in our mall, so guess what? Starting tomorrow, things won’t be the same here.”
Kleis said the mall will remained closed Sunday, as much of the mall is still part of an active police investigation.
Danny Carranza of Willmar was with his children at the play area near Macy's when the chaos started.
"People came running around the corner and I freaked out because I thought it was a terrorist attack or something because I saw a lot of people, so I grabbed my kids," he said.
"I ran as much as I could and I heard someone yell 'Stop! Stop!' As soon as the door shut I heard gunshots."
He and his children were released from lockdown by 11:20 p.m., but his wife was still inside the mall.
Carranza said police were checking identification and taking names of everyone as they were released from the mall.
Sydney Weires was shopping at the mall with her friends, Jenna Remmele and Maggie Gelke, all three freshmen at the College of St. Benedict. Weires said they got to the mall at about 8:10 p.m. and started shopping in stores near J.C. Penney.
They were walking down the hallway toward Sears when they heard a loud scream.
"I saw this security guard sprinting down the hallway toward Target," Weires said. "He was yelling, 'Call the cops. Call the cops.'"
Weires said she and her friends followed the guard because they thought maybe there was a shoplifter or a kidnapping.
"We saw these two guys. One guy was bleeding from the side of his face," Weires said. "He was screaming at us, 'Get the F out!'"
The second man had blood on the back of his shirt, Weires said.
"They were just drenched," Remmele added.
Weires said a few red lights on the drive to the mall and an impulsive decision to shop in Victoria's Secret might have been pivotal for the friends.
"We would've been in that hallway. We could have been one of those victims," Weires said. "It's insane."
The girls left the mall before the lockdown was implemented and saw a police car arriving as they left the mall parking lot, Weires said. They went back to their apartment and called family members.
Weires and Remmele broke down crying from the shock of their experience.
"We don't really know what to think," Remmele said. "Hearing the possibility of the number of people who could have been injured ... it's really scary."
Harley and Tama Exsted of Isle, who were in St. Cloud today to watch their son play in a college golf tournament at Blackberry Ridge, were in the mall when the incident occurred.
"All of a sudden I heard pop pop pop," Harley said. "I thought someone tipped over a shelf. All of a sudden these people started running. I just saw everybody running our way."
"It was a pa-pow, and then we saw the people start to run, which didn't catch me at first," he said. "But when we heard the screaming, then we knew it was time to go."
The couple escaped unharmed and said they helped another woman who was running from the scene to her car.
Worried relatives of shoppers have gathered near the scene.
Anthony Bellow, 18, a Technical High School student who recently moved to St. Cloud from Columbus, Ohio, went to the mall to visit his brother Dominic, 21, who works at Target, and was told to leave.
Bellow said his brother, whose shift was about a half-hour from ending when the violence broke out, sent him a text from inside Target that said there was a shooter in the mall.
"My brother and I have always been really close. I want to make sure he's OK and give him a hug," Anthony Bellow said.
Target employees huddled in the mens' clothing department, Bellow said his brother had communicated by text message. They later moved up to the registers, he said.
Their mother, who is still in Ohio, asked Dominic to text her a photo from inside the mall to show he's safe, and he did, Bellow said.
Adonis Samuels, 42, St. Cloud, was also outside the mall where his wife Roxanne is 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.
Desi Spoden, 52, of Sauk Rapids and her husband were in the parking lot awaiting word from their 17-year-old daughter, Carly, who was inside the mall at Lady Foot Locker. They raced to the scene after hearing about the incident.
Spoden said her daughter's friend reached her to let know they were OK. "Her friend called to let us know they were OK; they are on lockdown," she said.Forum News Service reporter Robb Jeffries contributed to this report.