When Detective Marianne Olson saw University student Walter Lee Hunt and three friends riding their stunt-style bikes on Washington Avenue last Tuesday, she wasn’t going to make an issue out of it.
But when she later saw the same group outside the Electrical Engineering — Computer Science building, jumping the retaining walls from the plaza side onto the sidewalk and into Union Street, she decided she had to confront them.
“One of them almost got hit by a car,” she said. “And there were people walking around.”
The walls blocked the riders’ vision of the other side, Olson said, which made their activities unsafe for others.
“If there had been somebody walking around, (the riders) would have clipped their head right off,” she said.
Hunt plans to fight to get the citation overturned in court, and said the actions of the group were perfectly safe. He said the area was completely deserted, and that they placed a scout on the street watching for pedestrians.
“I didn’t think we were doing anything unsafe at all,” he said.
But Olson said University and Minneapolis ordinances make trick riding illegal, despite the circumstances.
Hunt’s complaints about the incident go beyond the citation itself, however. When Olson approached him, he said she was out of uniform, and failed to immediately identify herself.
“Some lady came up to us and said, ‘Stop, stop what you’re doing,'” Hunt said. She asked them for identification, he said, at which point they asked her for the same. “She opened up her jacket, and she had the badge and the gun.”
Complicating the incident, Hunt was carrying a knife, which Olson confiscated. She said it violated Minneapolis city ordinances, which don’t allow a person to carry knives more than four inches long. She said the knife Hunt was carrying was about one-eighth to one-quarter inch too long and was a fighting knife with a serrated edge.
Hunt maintains the knife is legal. He said he called the manufacturer, who told him the knife is below four inches and legal to carry.
In addition, Hunt said when Olson found the knife it was on a clip and not concealed, even though it was in his pocket. Hunt said he asked her about his right to bear arms, and made several requests during the incident to be informed of his rights.
“She made it pretty clear that she didn’t have to do that,” he said.
Hunt said Olson then took him to a drunk tank, where he was held for about 45 minutes, despite the fact he had not been drinking.
“I feel that I was treated unjustly,” he said.
Hunt said he went to the police department the other day to reclaim his knife, but the detective gave him a vague explanation as to why he couldn’t have it back that day. He said he is also wary of the fact that she did not include the knife confiscation in her report about the incident, which he called unprofessional.
“She definitely manipulated the law to fit her needs,” he said. Hunt added that he left the experience with an unhappy lesson. “The law can be manipulated by anyone who is so-called ‘on the right side of the law,'” he said.
ù An international student in the chemistry department was walking home from a night of studying at the Bio-Medical Library late Tuesday night, when a minivan approached from a distance. Before the student realized what was going on, he was soaking wet.
The student, who was concerned because he wears glasses, was blasted in the face and torso from about 10 feet away by someone who appeared to be in his early 20s, he said.
He gave chase for about two blocks as the car waited for a red light, but when the light changed, the van sped off.
“I was very angry,” he said. “I have never liked (being watergunned).”
ù A University student is awaiting a first appearance in Hennepin County District Court scheduled for Thursday.
Ben Blat was arrested on March 21 and charged with making terroristic threats toward officials at the University Medical School.
Detective Olson said Blat sent 30 to 35 letters, as well as three bomb threats to local hospitals. Blat is severely delusional, Olson said, and although the letters were threatening, they didn’t make a lot of sense.
During the investigation, several recipients of the letters were asked to “wrack their brains” and remember who might have had treatment at the facility, Olson said. That helped point authorities toward Blat, although he also identified his parents by name in a number of letters.
“It kind of gives you a dead ringer,” she said.
“I think he needs psychiatric care,” Olson said.
Blat is currently detained at the Hennepin County Medical Center Psychiatric Ward and is awaiting trial.
ù A chemical fire in Amundson Hall forced students and instructors to evacuate the building Friday afternoon and block traffic on Washington Avenue. University Police responded to the fire, as well as the Minneapolis Fire Department and the Environmental Health and Safety unit. Two Minneapolis police officers were dispatched for traffic control.
Simon Foshay, a University security monitor, said the incident was significant enough that officers were called in from home. “They’ve never called up early like that,” he said.
He added that University security personnel are trained in dealing with hazardous materials, so the fact that a hazardous materials truck was dispatched is also significant. “When we see that hazmat truck, we know that something big is going down,” he said. “We never see those trucks.”
The four fire trucks blocked traffic during rush hour, forcing the four-lane street to form one lane each way. “Motorists were going nuts,” Foshay said.
University Police were called to the building at about 4:30 p.m. Students were allowed back in at about 8:30 that night. No one was injured in the incident.
Minneapolis Fire Chief Richard Boulet said the fire was the result of “an experiment that went sour.”
ù University Police are investigating an unusual case of cattle rustling at the University Block and Bridle Club. A mechanical bull that the rodeo team uses to practice for competition was stolen in late March from the organization. University Police, however, were just notified Tuesday.
“We were trying to take care of the matter on our own,” said Dan McCabe, a member of the organization. “We weren’t sure that it had been stolen. We couldn’t believe someone would want to take something like that.”
The mechanical bull’s value is estimated at $5,000, but McCabe said a new bull would cost $8,000. And the organization won’t be able to collect insurance on it because the University has a $10,000 deductible.
The rodeo team uses the bull to practice for the Minnesota Rodeo Association competitions, which take place during weekends in the summer. “It’ll hurt the team,” McCabe said.
He added that the organization does not have the funds to buy a new bull. “We think we might have a few leads,” he said. “Hopefully, something will turn up.”