After an Amber Alert was issued, police arrested Jeffrey Lo and found the girls, who are 1 and 3. They were unharmed and were reunited with their mother, said Cottage Grove Public Safety Chief Pete Koerner.
Lo’s ex-girlfriend applied for an order for protection against him in April and a judge granted it May 7, court records show. The 25-year-old wrote that Lo was abusive to her since the birth of their first daughter and previously threatened to kill her, according to her request for the protective order.
On Friday about 6:30 a.m., Lo was waiting in the far back of the woman’s minivan when she got into the van at her residence and he surprised her, Koerner said. He assaulted her, but she was able to get out of the vehicle after driving a short distance.
‘TRAGIC INCIDENT’ ENDS WITH ARREST
Lo, 24, then sped away in the woman’s van with their daughters still inside, according to Koerner.
A passerby picked up Lo’s former girlfriend on the side of the road and called 911. The woman was taken to Woodwinds Hospital in Woodbury; information about her condition was not available from police.
The van was discovered at 9:30 a.m. Tips helped officers, K-9 teams and the Minnesota State Patrol helicopter find Lo in a wooded area near 72nd Street and Hinton Avenue. He was holding his daughters and he surrendered.
There were initial reports that Lo was armed, but Koerner said officers did not find a handgun.
“It was a tragic incident. I really feel for those children,” Koerner said. “… All the different things were running through our heads in the search. It turned out we had initial information with a handgun, so absolutely this was the outcome we wanted.”
Cottage Grove police, who issued a “thank you” to the community and law enforcement in a Facebook post, said the passerby who helped the injured woman has been called a Good Samaritan, though the term may not do her justice.
“Her immediate call to 9-1-1 was crucial in ensuring a fast and immediate response and it allowed officers to quickly locate the vehicle the suspect had sped away in, with the children,” the post continued.
Law enforcement from around the area, including the FBI and U.S. Marshals, helped in the search.
Crestview Elementary School, 7830 80th St., imposed a “modified lockdown” Friday morning, the South Washington County School District reported. No students were in the building Friday.
ALREADY FEARED DANGER
In applying for the order for protection against Lo, his former girlfriend described an incident in March when he started pulling her hair and punching her arm because he was mad at her for sleeping on the floor instead of with him.
She tried to escape by running outside, but Lo pulled her back in by the hair and threatened to kill her if she sought help, she wrote in the petition.
After that, Lo would stop her from leaving the home with both their children, always insisting she leave at least one behind to ensure she returned, the woman wrote.
When she was able to leave him and began staying with her parents in late March, Lo started showing up at their home and trying to find her at her workplace, the petition said.
The woman indicated she believed she and her children were in imminent danger.
In April, Lo was charged with fourth-degree criminal damage to property for reportedly trying to kick a taillight on a vehicle parked in the woman’s parents’ driveway in February.
Lo was supposed to appear for a hearing in that case May 9 but didn’t show up, and a warrant was issued for his arrest.
The no-show took place two days after his ex’s order for protection went into effect.
Bob Shaw contributed to this report.