Isaiah Mordal had just finished a long day at the Pretzelmaker shop in the Crossroads Center mall. He was supposed to get off work at 5 o’clock but stayed until 8 to fill in for a sick co-worker.
When his shift finally ended, Mordal walked outside with his girlfriend, Johanna Bohnenkamp, who is nearly nine months pregnant. As he did, a man in a security guard’s uniform walked past, approached a woman nearby and stabbed her. Then he stabbed her companion.
And then he turned to face Mordal.
“I was in complete shock,” Mordal said Monday of the knife attacks at the St. Cloud mall on Saturday night that left 10 people injured. “He had me trapped in a corner. He stood about 10 feet away with his knife in the air.”
Mordal begged for his life.
“I said, ‘Don’t do this! My girlfriend is pregnant!’ At that point it seemed like it was going extremely fast, but at the same time, it seemed like it took forever,” he said.
The attacker, later identified as 22-year-old Dahir Adan, charged at Mordal, swinging a folding knife with a blade 4 to 5 inches long. Mordal ducked. The knife slashed his right shoulder. Turning, he saw his girlfriend run back into the mall — with Adan in pursuit.
Seconds earlier, Bohnenkamp had been frozen in fear.
“I was thinking, ‘Oh my God, my boyfriend is going to die,’ ” she recalled.
A burst of adrenaline surged through her and she hopped off the ledge and ran back into the mall. But her assailant soon caught up and grabbed her by the neck and shoulders.
Just then, there was a shout from behind. Mordal, gushing blood from his shoulder, was in pursuit, too.
“I screamed at him. I said, ‘Don’t you touch her, she’s pregnant!’ ” Mordal said. “He was ready to stab her and he turned and looked at me. I think that put his aim off.”
Adan swiped at Bohnenkamp’s neck, grazing it. Bohnenkamp shouted to Mordal that she was OK as Adan ran into the mall.
“As soon as I found out she was OK, something clicked in my head,” Mordal said. “I thought of all the people in the mall and knew I had to do something to help those people. I whipped my shirt off because I was soaked in blood.”
Shirtless and bleeding, Mordal chased the attacker, screaming for people to get away and call 911.
Meanwhile, Bohnenkamp ran to the safety of her mother’s car. She got in, locked the doors and ducked down, terrified to peek out the window lest Adan spot her.
“I was shaking. I was so scared,” she said.
Afraid she was going into labor, she phoned her mother — who was in the mall, which had been locked down. Bohnenkamp spent half an hour hiding in the car before her mother was able to find a police officer to escort her from the mall and retrieve her daughter from the parking lot.
Adan stabbed 10 people before he was shot and killed by Jason Falconer, an off-duty police officer in nearby Avon, Minn., who had gone to the mall that evening. Mordal said he heard Adan shouting phrases, but he couldn’t be certain what they were.
“When he was screaming, it sounded like ‘Allahu akbar,’ but I can’t say for sure,” Mordal said.
Monday afternoon, nearly two days later, the young couple was still shaken, stunned that such a thing could happen in St. Cloud.
“You don’t expect that to happen here,” Mordal said. “You hear about that happening in bigger cities.”
Mordal said he is nervous about going back to work. He often closes up the shop and now he’s worried about being one of the last people in the mall at night. But, with a baby on the way, “I’ve gotta do what I’ve gotta do.”
“We didn’t think anything about it because he was in a uniform,” Bohnenkamp said of Adan.
“Those are the people who are going to keep us safe, not stab us.”