Charges Shed Light on Murder Motive of SCSU Professor
ST. CLOUD -- A Duluth man has been formally charged in the shooting death of a St. Cloud State University professor Sunday morning. Forty-five-year-old Jason Beckman is charged with 2nd-degree murder, being a felon in possession of a gun, and car theft.
According to the criminal complaint, Beckman had borrowed a pickup in Duluth and was driving to southwestern Minnesota to either collect some tools or see family, when he got lost in Waite Park.
When the truck broke down, Beckman is seen on Kwik Trip surveillance video checking door handles at the nearby Kia and Hyundai dealerships. Records show Beckman then found a car running with the occupants not inside, climbed in, and drove off.
Again, Beckman got lost, this time he ended up driving down Island View Drive where the shooting happened. He later told investigators he swerved to avoid a downed tree branch and crashed the car. That's when he went to the door of Ed Ward and began knocking.
When Ward answered the door, Beckman told police he thought Ward was the same man who he thought had pointed a tan rifle at him earlier at a grocery store parking lot. Ring surveillance footage shows Beckman raising the gun in his right hand and shooting as Ward tries to slam the door shut.
Beckman then flees on foot, heading north on the Beaver Island Trail.
According to the charges, Ward's wife raced to a neighbor's house to call for an ambulance.
Beckman was spotted by SCSU security and kept a visual on him until police arrested Beckman near Halenbeck Hall. Officers recovered a silver .45-caliber handgun with ammunition consistent with the bullets and casings found at Ward's home. The gun had previously been reported stolen from Red Wing.
Ward was rushed to the hospital where he died from two gunshot wounds to the chest and abdomen.
In a statement to police, Beckman claimed to be a drug addict and have been previously diagnosed with PTSD, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and manic depressive disorder. Beckman wasn't sure whether his story of a rifle being pointed at him in the grocery store parking lot was a delusion or not.
Police say a search warrant of the stolen car turned up drugs, drug paraphernalia, and additional ammunition.
Beckman has a recent history of convictions for violent crimes for which he received reduced or stayed sentences. He had a felony conviction for third-degree assault in 2018 in Redwood County. His 18-month sentence on that conviction was stayed. Most recently, Beckman was convicted in Redwood County in October 2020 on felony counts of third-degree assault and fifth-degree narcotics, and a gross misdemeanor charge of domestic assault.
Beckman was back in court on March 1, 2020, and was found to have violated the terms of his probation. Instead of having his probation revoked and his sentences executed, Beckman was again ordered to serve only 90 days in the county jail on the probation violation.
Some content courtesy of KLGR in Redwood Falls