2 girls found safe, suspect in custody after AMBER Alert in Cottage Grove, Minn.
COTTAGE GROVE, Minn. (FOX 9) - Police arrested a Cottage Grove man Friday morning who they say assaulted his ex-girlfriend and abducted their daughters, triggering an Amber Alert.
Police searched for Jeffrey Lo, 25, for four hours before a police K9 found Lo and his 3-year-old and 1-year-old daughters hiding in a wooded area near a neighborhood.
“He was taken into custody without incident and immediately we did get the two children,” Cottage Grove Public Safety Director Pete Koerner told reporters at a news conference. “They appear to be unharmed, which is excellent news, and they’re being reunited with their mother.”
Lo did not have custody of his daughters and an order for protection had been filed against him in Hennepin County, Koerner said.
The incident started around 6:30 a.m., when Lo hid in his ex-girlfriend’s minivan outside her home. When the woman and the 3-year-old and 1-year-old girls got inside, police said Lo attacked.
“He was basically hiding in the rear-most portion of the minivan. She was unaware of his presence,” said Cottage Grove Police Sgt. Mike Coffey. “Within a very short distance of her residence, he popped up from the back of the minivan, came forward, and then started to assault her.”
The ex-girlfriend stopped the van and escaped, but Lo sped away with his daughters inside the vehicle. He later abandoned the van a few miles away before taking his daughters into a wooded area in the Hidden Valley neighborhood.
A female passerby saw Lo’s ex-girlfriend and stopped to help her. Koerner said the women briefly tried to follow the minivan. The passerby then drove the victim to a nearby Dairy Queen and called 911.
Police issued the Amber Alert around 8:42 a.m. for the girls.
Witnesses saw Lo walking his daughters near the neighborhood around 70th Street and Hinton Avenue. That allowed law enforcement to tighten their perimeter, Koerner said.
Police found Lo holding onto his girls in the woods, he said.
Neighbors watched as police arrested Lo and took the girls out of the woods and into an ambulance. Paramedics took them to a nearby hospital for observation.
“I was very worried for the kids,” said a neighbor, Darcy, who didn’t want to give her last name. “As soon as I saw he was in custody, it was like, ‘I can breathe a sigh of relief.’”
Police canceled the alert at 10:41 a.m.
"I really feel for those children, but I don’t think we could have asked for a better outcome,” Koerner said. “All the different things were running through our heads in the search. We had additional information with the handgun, so absolutely this was the outcome we wanted."
Lo will be held in the Washington County Jail after police in Cottage Grove interview him Friday. Koerner said he expected prosecutors to file formal charges in the next few days.