Duluth man charged with 'random' shooting of St. Cloud State professor

Charges say a 45-year-old Duluth, Minnesota man with multiple mental health conditions shot and killed a St. Cloud State University business professor after crashing a stolen car into his front yard early Sunday morning in St. Cloud. 

Jason Beckman was charged Tuesday with one felony count of second-degree murder, one felony count of motor vehicle theft and one felony count of possession of a firearm for the shooting of 68-year-old St. Cloud State University Professor Dr. Edward Anthony Ward. 

In the aftermath of the shooting, police called it "random" and said the men appeared to have "no connections." 

According to charges filed in Stearns County District Court, Beckman told police he drove to the Waite Park area from Duluth the night prior on his way to southwestern Minnesota. He told police someone had pointed a gun at him in a grocery store parking lot, but admitted that he was not sure if it was a delusion or not. He told police he had previously been diagnosed with PTSD, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and manic depressive disorder. 

Beckman told police he stole a sedan early Sunday morning before getting lost and crashing the car in Ward’s front yard. Beckman told police he knocked on Ward’s door after the crash to get help, but said he thought Ward was the man who pointed a rifle at him in the grocery store parking lot. 

Beckman pulled a gun on Ward, who tried to slam the door shut. He shot Ward, who later died at the hospital. 

Ward had been a Department of Management and Entrepreneurship professor at St. Cloud State University since 1990. 

"He was just one of those guys that if you just were in his class, you wouldn’t forget him," student Brooks Anderson told FOX 9. "He was just a great guy who was super kind, compassionate funny, very witty but truly cared about his students."  

"I know when I was signing up for his class everyone was like, ‘Dr. Ward is fantastic. You will get so much out of that class. It won’t be a waste of your time.’ He cares about his students," says student Brittany Prigge. "He gave so much of his energy and his time to help us get ready for graduation so, it’s sad that so many students won’t be able to experience what I was able to experience with him."

In a statement to FOX 9, Dr. Ward’s family states: 

We are shocked and saddened by the murder of our beloved Ed. He was a gentle, quiet, and intelligent man who served as a 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. Ed’s greatest love, however, was his family, and he leaves behind his two adult children, Amy and Mark, and his lifelong partner and mother of his children, Denese. We would like to thank everyone for their thoughts and prayers during this difficult time and ask that you respect our privacy.