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Police arrest suspicious individual in UMD class

A 36-year-old Duluth man who later was found to have a 6- to 8-inch wooden stick and a leather whip was removed from a University of Minnesota Duluth lecture hall after concerned students called police this morning.

A 36-year-old Duluth man who later was found to have a 6- to 8-inch wooden stick and a leather whip was removed from a University of Minnesota Duluth lecture hall after concerned students called police this morning.

The man, whose identity is being withheld until a formal charge of disorderly conduct is filed, had moved from seat to seat and eventually sat in an aisle, staring down the assistant professor teaching the class. He is being held in the St. Louis County Jail.

In 2006, the same man was charged with four counts of second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon but was acquitted because of mental incompetency after a mental health evaluation at the St. Peter state security hospital.

Assistant Professor Pedro Albuquerque was teaching his Principles of Macroeconomics class about 9:15 a.m. when he noticed a man he didn't recognize as a student staring at him in a way that caught his attention.

"Basically, I could not take my eyes off of him," Albuquerque said. The professor said he thought about stepping out of class and calling the police, but he didn't want to trigger any violent behavior.

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At least two women of the approximately 130 students in the large, dimly-lit lecture hall were also paying attention to the man, and they called police, according to a UMD campuswide e-mail about the incident.

The women left the lecture hall and went upstairs to an office to call police, said Lt. Anne Peterson, director of UMD campus police.

The man was wearing sunglasses and a leather jacket, dressed mostly in black, said Albuquerque, who requires eyeglasses but was not wearing them at the time of the incident. The man moved around the back of the room and appeared to Albuquerque to sit down at a desk.

"He was someone that, for sure, I've never seen on campus," Albuquerque said, adding "not that I've seen him doing anything wrong."

But acting suspiciously in a college classroom these days is akin to saying the word 'bomb' in an airport.

When police arrested the man, it was "extremely fast. He was surprised. I was surprised," Albuquerque said. The man did not say anything that Albuquerque could hear from the front of the lecture hall, until he was arrested.

The whole episode took about ten minutes.

Peterson said officers believed the man was wearing motorcycle gang colors on his leather jacket. He had a long, curly hair and a beard.

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"I think the students were just a little bit concerned, boarding on fearful,'' Peterson said. "... I think it has a lot to do with the recent incident at Northern Illinois [University] and rightly so.''

Peterson said the man had no apparent political message and nothing in particular to say. He was not aggressive toward students, she said.

He became agitated when Peterson and one of her officers and four Duluth city police officers took him into custody. Force was needed to take him to the ground and apply handcuffs.

The man was first taken to St. Luke's hospital for evaluation and then transported to the St. Louis County Jail.

"With the climate on college campuses today, we just can't take any chances,'' Peterson said. "We have to treat it seriously. We appreciate the actions of the students who brought this to our attention. And we are very appreciative of the backup help we received from city police.''

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