University student caught in crossfire

Jesse Weisbeck

For University freshman Benjamin Johnson and a visiting friend from Stillwater, Minn., pellet guns are a pain in the neck — and in the knees.
The two friends were standing outside Territorial Hall at about 4:30 a.m. Sunday smoking cigarettes when they heard an odd noise, the signature pop of pellet guns coming from near Pioneer Hall.
Curious about the noises, Johnson, 18, and his friend, Douglas Hatalla, walked over to investigate.
On their way, the gun shots again rang out. One of the shots struck Hatalla in the neck, splitting his skin open. A second shot hit Johnson just above the knee, resulting in a welt.
“It happened really fast. It was weird,” Johnson said.
Neither Johnson nor Hatalla received medical treatment.
Johnson said that afterward, he and his friend noticed several people near a bathroom window on the third or fourth floor of Pioneer Hall with the light on. Johnson said he suspects the people in the window shot the pellet gun.
“We were pretty pissed off,” Johnson said.
University police soon arrived and took a report. However, Johnson said the officers didn’t investigate the incident to his satisfaction.
University police searched for the pellets that struck Johnson and Hatalla, but didn’t go into the building to look for suspects. “They didn’t really make an effort,” Johnson said.
Since the suspects supposedly shot the pellet gun from a public bathroom window, University police said pegging down suspects would be difficult.
“We don’t have much to go on at this point,” said Ralph Rickgarn, executive assistant for Housing and Residential Life. “If we had a room, we could tag onto it pretty tightly.”

In other police news:

ù A University graduate fell victim to a man’s sob story and ended up losing $420 over a phone call.
Laura Lindquist claims Roberto Salezar, who is not affiliated with the University, borrowed the money from her with a promise to repay her the next day.
“I got this call, and the young man had little to say but a lot of words,” said Lindquist, who had no previous contact with Salezar.
Lindquist, a University of Minnesota Press employee, wired the money to Salezar in Las Vegas, Nev. He apparently told her he wanted to fly to Wisconsin because his grandmother had died and needed the money.
“I thought well, you know, here’s Jesus calling from Nevada,” Lindquist said.
She said she felt bad for Salezar and offered to give him the money with no strings attached. However, Salezar promised he’d pay double the money back the next day and gave Lindquist his parents’ phone numbers as insurance.
When he didn’t repay the money, Lindquist called Salezar’s parents, who, according to a police report, said he has been involved in similar scams in the past.
Lindquist said Salezar apparently found her through a friend in Bailey Hall.
However, police have difficulty calling such incidents crimes because there is still a chance that the money might be paid back, said University Police Sgt. Joe May.
Nevertheless, police in Las Vegas arrested Salezar on Friday for the scam.
A University Police report stated Salezar is also wanted by the University of Wisconsin Police Department for similar incidents.

ù University police are investigating an arson that occurred in Middlebrook Hall and led to the arrest of a Carlson School of Management student March 2.
The man was arrested and taken to the Hennepin County Jail and released shortly afterward for burning a portion of carpet in the hall.
University Police Investigator Marianne Olson said the financial damage is probably minimal.
“The thing you have to take into consideration is how many people live in the building,” Olson said.
About 670 University students live in Middlebrook Hall.
Olson said the man extinguished the fire. But University police have not determined why he would start and also extinguish the fire.
Charges against the man are pending until Hennepin County officials determine whether to pursue the case.