The off-duty police officer who confronted and fatally shot the man suspected of stabbing nine people in a St. Cloud mall was roundly praised for split-second heroics that likely saved others from harm.

As a onetime police chief early this decade in nearby Albany, Jason F. Falconer was careful Sunday afternoon not to impede the nascent investigation into the attack Saturday night at Crossroads Center, violence that federal authorities are treating as a potential act of terrorism.

"I've been trying to stay away from it all, for the time being," said Falconer, a medal-winning marksman who operates a firearms training business in neighboring Waite Park.

Falconer said he was unharmed during the confrontation, but he had no further comment.

St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis said at a news conference Sunday that Falconer's "life was clearly in danger" during what had been an uneventful shopping trip for the part-time officer in Avon, Minn.

Kleis said video from inside the mall shows Falconer shooting once and the attacker falling and getting back up three times. At another point, the man lunges toward the officer with a knife.

"Officer Falconer was there at the right time and the right place," Kleis said. That place, where the assailant died, was inside Macy's.

St. Cloud Police Chief William Anderson said "this could have been much, much worse" if not for Falconer's "swift and direct" response to the chaos.

Along with being president and owner of Tactical Advantage and Tactical Advantage Firearms Training, the 43-year-old Falconer's professional bio notes that he has assisted St. Cloud State University with law enforcement training "in the disciplines of decision shooting and dynamic entry" in realistic situations. He says his training is also beneficial for "responsible citizens" who might find themselves in life-threatening peril.

Falconer, who lives just outside of St. Cloud, was a multi-medal recipient in 2012 when St. Cloud hosted the Can-Am Police-Fire Games.

Gov. Mark Dayton said in a statement Sunday afternoon that he is "deeply grateful to the heroic law enforcement officer, whose swift response prevented an even worse attack."

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar said, "While we will learn more about the facts surrounding this horrific attack today, one thing we know for certain this morning: Due to the courageous actions of an off-duty area police officer, the good work of first responders, and the reaction of those present at the mall, lives were saved."

Kurt Daudt, the Minnesota House speaker who lives about 40 miles east of the mall, said, "We are grateful for his heroism."

Star Tribune staff writer Beatrice Dupuy contributed to this report. Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482