UPDATE: According to University Police, “the original Crime Alert included a photo of an individual that is no longer a person of interest in this investigation. UMPD has identified that person and cleared him of any wrong doing.”
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Police hope a surveillance picture helps them find the man who used a gun to rob a University of Minnesota student inside a campus building on Monday, putting the entire campus on alert.
Investigators said the man approached the student in a hallway in Anderson Hall on the West Bank. He showed a gun and demanded her laptop. When the student screamed, the suspect ran into the University’s tunnel system with her empty backpack.
Through text alerts, students were told to find shelter while police searched for the man.
“We shut off all the lights in the classroom and we went to the front of the classroom and we sat there for a good 45 minutes,” said freshman Tyler Dalton. Dalton was in calculus class in Anderson Hall, and one of 80,000 people who received an alert on their phone.
“It was pretty shocking. Kind of a weird way to end your day,” said Dalton.
Police spent close to an hour searching Anderson Hall, the tunnels and neighboring buildings looking for the suspect. A surveillance camera captured a picture of the man. He was shown wearing a black coat and hat. Just after 4 p.m. Monday, police gave the all clear but the man wasn’t found.
While this is the first known armed robbery attempt on campus, more than a half-dozen assaults and robberies have occurred over the past month around the University of Minnesota. It’s prompting school officials to ask students to use campus resources for their own safety.
“It’s a record year. We already have 500 rides up from this same period last year,” said David Golden, director of public health and communications.
Golden is the director of Gopher Chauffeur, a service that picks up students on Friday and Saturday nights and gives them a ride home. Gopher Chauffeur will extend its hours and days beginning in January. They are also adding a fourth vehicle- all with student safety in mind.
“The main purpose of the Gopher Chauffeur is the safety. If you are out and if you have been drinking a lot or a little, you are vulnerable during those times,” said Golden.
The Gopher Chauffeur runs until 2 a.m. in the morning on weekends right now, but will likely run until 3 a.m. beginning in the spring semester. It is paid for with student fees.
Another option for students on-campus is to call (612) 624-WALK. They will be connected to security who will escort them anywhere on campus. Classes were on schedule as normal Monday night and no activities were canceled as a result of the potential threat.
Authorities described the suspect as about 20 years old, approximately 6-feet tall and was wearing a puffy, black hooded jacket.