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ND university dean died in apparent suicide after report of hundreds of degrees to foreign students who didn't earn them

DICKINSON -- A high-ranking and longtime Dickinson State University staff member has died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.

The Dickinson Police Department said Friday that Doug LaPlante's body was found in Fairway Park.

LaPlante, 59, was DSU's dean of the college of education, business and applied sciences. He had been at the university since 1991.

"Doug was the first person at DSU I got to know when I came to North Dakota," DSU President D.C. Coston said in a statement. "I found him to be person of deep care and unquestionable integrity. He had a deep and abiding commitment to Dickinson State and to our students."

DPD was contacted at approximately 9:27 a.m. Friday after LaPlante had uncharacteristically missed a meeting.

Officers responded to LaPlante's residence located in the 600 block of Ninth Avenue West, in close proximity to DSU's campus.

An investigation revealed LaPlante had apparently left his residence on foot and had not taken his cellphone. It was also determined that a large-caliber rifle was missing from LaPlante's residence.

A passerby saw LaPlante walking northeast toward Rocky Butte Park at about 8 a.m., according to a DPD release.

The release said that because LaPlante was believed to be distraught, precautions were taken to shelter DSU's campus and other schools in the vicinity.

A campus evacuation was enacted briefly before being lifted after university officials confirmed the danger to students and faculty had passed.

LaPlante's body was found by police at approximately 1:23 p.m.

Coston planned to meet with students at Beck Auditorium at 1 p.m. Friday about the audit report that said DSU had awarded hundreds of degrees to foreign students who didn't earn them, signed up students who couldn't speak English and enrolled a handful without qualifying grades.

However, that meeting was cut short by the incident.

Faculty, staff and non-residential students were asked to leave the campus immediately while on-campus students are asked to return to their dormitories.

April Baumgarten and Dustin Monke report for the Dickson Press, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.