Reporting Bill Hudson
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Just three weeks into the new school year, students at Augsburg College paused between classes and talked quietly in small groups on Wednesday. The news of a student’s sudden death had spread quickly around campus.
“Email, word of mouth, just generally we found out in chapel that there was an announcement about it,” said Augsburg junior Billy Mzenga.
Mzenga said he met 19-year-old Jason Stevens only recently through another college friend. Stevens was a freshman and a member of the men’s cross country team at the school.
Mzenga and the other 4,000 Augsburg students awoke to a campus-wide e-mail from Augsburg President Paul Pribbenow Wednesday morning. The brief message announced sadness over the news of Stevens’ death. The college freshman was found badly injured along westbound Interstate 94 and Riverside Avenue. Stevens was rushed to Hennepin County Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead from his injuries.
“This case is still under investigation, very preliminary,” said Minnesota State Patrol Lt. Eric Roeske.
Lt. Roeske said investigators still aren’t certain how Stevens ended up under the Riverside bridge. His injuries were consistent with being struck by one or more passing vehicles or even falling from the bridge above. However, Roeske said, no witnesses have actually come forward saying they saw the chain of events leading to his death.
“Without much information about what led up to him ending up on the road we don’t want to draw any conclusions that aren’t supported by evidence or investigation,” Roeske said.
Unlike the Aug. 23 hit-and-run death of 38-year- old Anousone Phanthavong, which happened just a few hundred feet away, there were no damaged vehicle parts left at the scene. Investigators said the few witness statements from those driving past Stevens’ body are inconclusive.
On the campus where the freshman cross country runner and honors student was just beginning to make friends, there’s a sudden and confusing sense of loss.
“This is such a tight-knit and small community. This thing just shakes up the whole community, everyone knows about it right away,” said Mzenga.
Augsburg will be holding a Thursday morning chapel service at 11:20 a.m. to honor and remember the life of Stevens. In the meantime, anyone with information on events leading up to his death is asked to contact the Minnesota State Patrol.
NewsRadio 830 WCCO’s Susie Jones Reports