Man with mental illness shot Minnesota professor in random attack: cops

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A schizophrenic Minnesota man fatally shot a professor after crashing a stolen car in his front yard in an apparently random attack, authorities said.

Jason Robert Beckman, 45, of Duluth, admitted to investigators that he shot St. Cloud State University professor Edward Anthony Ward early Sunday as the educator stood at his doorway, police said in a statement Monday.

Ward, a professor at the school for more than three decades, was later pronounced dead at a hospital in what St. Cloud police characterized as a “random” attack.

Beckman told investigators he got lost while driving a stolen Audi in Ward’s neighborhood and swerved to avoid a branch, causing him to lose control and crash in a front yard, according to a criminal complaint obtained by the Star Tribune.

Beckman said he then knocked on Ward’s front door and thought the professor was a man who previously pointed a tan rifle at him in nearby Waite Park, court documents show.

Beckman proceeded to open fire on Ward, hitting him in the chest and abdomen before fleeing the scene. He later told investigators he had been previously diagnosed with a number of mental illnesses — including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, manic depressive disorder and PTSD, according to the complaint.

Beckman also told investigators he wasn’t sure if the rifle incident had been a delusion, but said he thought Ward was the same person who purportedly pointed the weapon at him days earlier.

Beckman, who has been charged with second-degree murder and other counts, was arrested with a .45-caliber handgun about an hour after the shooting. There’s no evidence to indicate any connection between him, Ward or the professor’s neighborhood, police said.

St. Cloud State officials told The Post in a statement that Ward, 68, who worked at the public university of 16,000 students since 1990, taught management and entrepreneurship courses there.

“This is a heart wrenching and unexpected loss for Dr. Ward’s family and friends, our university, the Herberger Business School, our students and the St. Cloud community,” university president Robbyn Wacker said. “He has impacted countless students, faculty and staff throughout his tenure. He will be truly missed.”

A judge set bail for Beckman at $2 million with no conditions or $1 million with conditions during his initial court appearance Tuesday, KSTP reported.

But the criminal case against Beckman was temporarily suspended pending a competency exam. He had also been barred from possessing firearms due to a prior felony conviction, according to the station.

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