ST. CLOUD – A 45-year-old Duluth man is facing felony charges for reportedly shooting a St. Cloud man after crashing a stolen vehicle in the man's front yard.
The Duluth man, Jason R. Beckman, told investigators he got lost while driving in south St. Cloud, swerved to avoid a branch and lost control, according to a criminal complaint filed Tuesday in Stearns County District Court.
Beckman said he then knocked on the front door of the house and thought the man who answered — 68-year-old St. Cloud University Prof. Ed Ward — was a man "who had pointed [a] tan rifle at him earlier" at a grocery store in Waite Park, according to court documents.
As Ward tried to slam the door, Beckman shot him in the chest and abdomen before fleeing on the nearby Beaver Island Trail, the complaint states.
Beckman told investigators he wasn't sure if the man with the tan rifle was real, as he had been previously diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and manic depressive disorder, the complaint says.
Beckman was charged with one felony count of theft, one felony count of unlawful possession of a firearm and one felony count of second-degree murder. He has two previous felony convictions for assault in Redwood County, which prohibit him from possessing a handgun.
St. Cloud police were dispatched to the shooting in the 2600 block of Island View Drive about 6:16 a.m. Sunday.
About 7:11 a.m., Beckman was arrested while walking about 1.5 miles from the area near Halenbeck Hall on the St. Cloud State campus. He was found in possession of a .45-caliber handgun and cartridges consistent with items recovered from the scene of the shooting, court documents say.
The investigation revealed Beckman abandoned a borrowed pickup truck in the 400 block of Park Meadows Drive in Waite Park early Sunday morning after it broke down.
The truck's owner, a Duluth man, said Beckman borrowed it several days before to get his tools from "down south" and go to a funeral, the complaint says.
Beckman then reportedly tried to see if car doors were unlocked at Waite Park car dealerships before stealing an Audi that was left running outside a business about 5:30 a.m. Sunday.
After he was shot, Ward was able to provide authorities with a description of the suspect before he was sedated. He was pronounced dead at 10:10 a.m.
Officers found a black pellet gun, a .45-caliber magazine and suspected drugs in the stolen vehicle left at the scene. The handgun Beckman was in possession of was reported stolen from Red Wing, court documents state.
Investigators observed Beckman make several "spontaneous utterances" referencing delusions, being an addict and concern for his family.
Beckman's first court appearance was Tuesday, where bail was set at $2 million with no conditions and $1 million with conditions; his next hearing is Aug. 10, but the matter will be temporarily suspended pending a competency examination, according to court administration.
Ward had been a professor at St. Cloud State for more than three decades. In released statements, his family described Ward as a "gentle, quiet and intelligent man" and St. Cloud State Prof. Robbyn Wacker described Ward's death as heart-wrenching and a loss for the university.
Jenny Berg • 612-673-7299