Daylight gunman robs student of valuables near U athletic buildings

  • Article by: PAUL WALSH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 14, 2013 - 12:29 AM

A gunman on the edge of the University of Minnesota campus ripped away a student’s backpack holding electronic items before fleeing in the latest of several high-profile crimes in or near the Minneapolis campus.

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University of Minnesota Police Chief Greg Hestness testifies at a Minnesota Senate higher education committee meeting about metro campus safety at the State Capitol, on Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013.

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A gunman on the edge of the University of Minnesota ripped away a student’s backpack and fled in the latest violent crime in or near the Minneapolis campus, authorities said.

The robbery of a 21-year-old woman about 9:20 a.m. Wednesday near 14th Avenue and 6th Street SE., across the street from university athletic buildings, prompted campus police to issue a crime alert Thursday.

The suspect approached the woman as she headed to class, demanded her backpack and showed her a handgun, the alert read. The man pulled the backpack away and ran north on 14th Avenue. He remains at large.

A wallet, a smartphone and an iPad were in the backpack, police said.

The student, who was not hurt, reported the crime to police about 12 hours later, “so officers were not able to conduct an immediate search for the suspect,” the alert noted.

Minneapolis police said they are checking for video surveillance that may have recorded the incident.

“I know it’s unsafe at night around campus,” said the woman, who asked that her identity not be published out of concern for her safety. “But I never think of crime ... in daytime.”

The woman said the man only said “your backpack” and then repeated the demand. “I assumed he just wanted money, so I turn my backpack to the front and open it for my wallet,” she added. “But when he saw there was an iPad there, he grabbed it [all] and ran away.”

Explaining why she took 12 hours to notify police, the woman said the gunman took her phone and the key to her home, and “my mind was blank at the time.”

She said her nerves have settled down. “I am good now,” she said. “Just feel a little stressful for finals.”

The woman said her instructors have given her extra time to take her exams.

The number of reported robberies on and near the Minneapolis campus is higher than average this year. U statistics show that 25 were reported from September through November, compared to an average 18 for those three months each year since 2008.

Campus safety was discussed extensively during two days of Board of Regents meetings, which wrapped up Friday.

“While recent crimes on or near the Twin Cities campus are very concerning, families need to know that we are unified in our commitment to providing a safe environment for students, faculty and staff,” said Board Chairman Richard Beeson.

School officials outlined to the board their “multipronged approach” to make the campus safer. Those tactics, they said, include assessing building security, and additional lighting, emergency call stations and security cameras.

The gunman in Wednesday’s holdup is described as black, 20 to 25 years old, about 5 feet 10 inches tall, with a heavy build. He was wearing a black winter jacket similar to the North Face brand, with a black sweater underneath. The sweater’s collar was pulled over his nose and mouth.

He also had on black knit gloves and a winter hat, a black sweatshirt with the hood pulled up, bluejeans and dirty black work boots, police said.

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