By John Lauritsen

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Police in Cottage Grove say an AMBER Alert, tips from the public, and a passer-by are the reasons two girls are now home safe.

Investigators say around 6:30 a.m. Friday, 24-year-old Jeffrey Lo attacked his estranged girlfriend before taking their daughters and speeding away in a minivan.

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Lo is currently in custody at the Washington County Jail and has not yet been booked as of 9 p.m. Friday.

Jeffrey Lo

(credit: BCA)

An Amber Alert was issued just before 8:30 a.m., and that likely helped with a quick ending to the situation. But even before then, authorities from about 15 different agencies had already responded.

“Hats off to them. We didn’t even have to call out for them. They were here, right away,” said Chief Pete Koerner of Cottage Grove Public Safety.

And they knew the situation was urgent. Investigators said Lo hid in the back of his estranged girlfriend’s minivan. When she and the two girls got into the vehicle and drove away, Lo surprised them.

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“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,” Sgt. Mike Coffey said.

The woman was able to stop the van and escape. She was picked up by a passerby who called 911. Lo climbed into the van’s driver’s seat and drove away with his daughters at high speeds into a neighborhood. That’s where police set up a perimeter.

“They were checking the insides of the cars and talking to you and asking you if you had seen anything,” neighbor Roxanne Cory said.

They eventually found the van and then a K-9 led them into the woods where they found their suspect. Police said when they found Lo he was holding his two daughters and he did not have a weapon on him. He surrendered to officers and the girls appeared to be unharmed.

“I don’t think we could have asked for a better outcome. With all the different things that were running through our heads and the search, it turned out– we had initial information with a handgun, so absolutely this was the outcome we wanted,” Koerner said.

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Even though the girls appeared to be fine, they were taken to Woodwinds Hospital just to be sure. Their mother was also treated there for her injuries from the assault, and all three were reunited.

John Lauritsen