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Jason Beckman, Of Duluth, Charged With Killing St. Cloud Professor Edward Ward

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- St. Cloud police say the shooting death of a college professor was a random act.

Officers were called to the 2600 block of Island View Drive early Sunday morning, where they found a man suffering from gunshot wounds. They rushed him to the St. Cloud Hospital, where he later died.

Police later arrested 45-year-old Jason Robert Beckman of Duluth, and they said he admitted to shooting the victim. He has been charged with three felony counts, including second-degree unpremeditated murder.

Susan Bertram describes her neighborhood as "very low-key, low-traffic," especially on a Sunday at 6 a.m. But police said that's when Beckman swerved off of Island View Drive and ended up in a yard. Investigators said he then went to the front door, knocked, and when the homeowner answered, he shot him.

"I was just very surprised, just very shocked to hear that that happened right here and there's no real rhyme or reason," Bertram said. "Kind of scary."

Officers arrested Beckman a short time later and a few blocks away. He was carrying a handgun, and police say he admitted to the shooting.

Jason Robert Beckman
(credit: Stearns County)

The victim's son identified him as 68-year-old Edward Ward. Originally from Illinois, he was a business management professor at St. Cloud State University.

Ward's family described him as a "gentle, quiet, and intelligent man who served as professor at St. Cloud State University for over 30 years, where he impacted the lives and careers of countless students." He loved reading, bicycling and history, but the statement added that, "his greatest love was his family and he leaves behind his two adult children, Amy and Mark, and his lifelong partner and mother of his children, Denese."

Beckman is currently in the Stearns County Jail and is facing charges. Police said he didn't know Ward and didn't have any connection to the block. For Bertram, the shooting is tragic and senseless, and doesn't make sense for this neighborhood.

"No, no, it doesn't, it doesn't. It's definitely a very kid-friendly, family-oriented area," Bertram said.

St. Cloud State University said Dr. Ward has been a professor on campus since 1990. They called his death "heartbreaking."

In a statement, President Robbyn Wacker said Ward "has impacted countless students, faculty and staff throughout his tenure. He will truly be missed."

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