A 19-year-old university freshman, who was arrested after authorities seized a shotgun and a pistol from his dorm room just days after classes began, was potentially plotting a mass shooting at his North Carolina campus, police say.
Freshman Paul Steber allegedly had a “plan and timeline” to “kill people” at High Point University, the New York Post reported.
Steber was taken into custody on Tuesday, August 27 after High Point University campus security alerted police that the young student potentially had firearms in his dorm room. Police seized two guns, as well as ammunition, according to a High Point Police Department press release.
Steber, who’s from Boston, Massachusetts, was initially charged with two felony counts of weapons on campus, but upon further investigation, authorities also charged the freshman with one count of communicating a threat of mass violence on educational property.
The campus is located in High Point, a small city about 17 miles southwest of Greensboro.
The university gun scare follows a flurry of summer shootings in the U.S., most notably the El Paso, Texas massacre, where a gunman killed 22 people after opening fire at a Walmart earlier this month.
Steber allegedly planned to kill himself and his roommate if he wasn’t accepted into a campus fraternity, according to documents obtained by local CBS-affiliate WFMY-TV. He also allegedly purchased the firearms days earlier and chose to study at High Point University because “it was easier to get a gun” in North Carolina.
Prosecutors also recommended Steber should undergo a mental health evaluation and be banned from using the internet following his release, WFMY-TV reported.
“The High Point University family is incredibly saddened by the incident that took place this week,” said Katie Hamlin, a media relations manager for the school, in a statement sent to Oxygen.com.
The university spokesperson, who noted Steber has been permanently banned from its campus, said that North Carolina state law prohibits open or concealed carry of firearms on college campuses. Hamlin also praised the students who first tipped off campus security to the potential threat.
“We continue to commend the students who reported the situation,” she added. “The quick action they took demonstrates caring for the campus community at its finest.”
Chris Weisner, the High Point police patrol commander, agreed, adding that the student tip could have saved countless lives.
“This is a tried and true example of what happens when someone sees something that concerns them and reports it to the appropriate authorities,” Weisner told Oxygen.com. “And this no doubt averted a disaster here in High Point.”
The university said it has increased police presence in the days since the campus scare as an additional precaution.
“That’s kind of the world we live in these days,” Colton Zenni, a High Point University media and pop culture production major told Oxygen.com. “You really never expect that type of thing to happen right there where you live and go to class."
Steber's arrest, which occurred just over a week into the semester, has perplexed High Point’s students, including Zenni.
“It’s the second week of school — I can’t imagine what could have driven him to such an extent,” the 20-year-old junior said.
Steber was arraigned on Wednesday. His bond was originally set at $3 million, but, according to High Point police, that will be upgraded in the next 10 days, following Steber’s next court appearance.
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