HIGH POINT, N.C. — A North Carolina university student arrested with guns and ammunition in his dorm room had studied mass shootings and was making plans to kill his roommate and himself if he didn't get into a fraternity, a prosecutor said Wednesday.
Paul A. Steber, a 19-year-old freshman from Boston attending High Point University, was arrested Tuesday and charged with two felony counts of having a gun on campus and a charge of making threats of mass violence, the High Point Police Department said in a statement.
No one was hurt and there was no immediate threat to others on campus, the university said in a separate statement. Another student turned Steber in, the statement said.
"This incident illustrates the importance of the public reporting suspicious activity to authorities," the police statement said. "Information from the public is often the critical first step in preventing acts of mass violence."
Steber had been watching videos to learn how to carry out a mass shooting, Assistant District Attorney Lori Wickline said in court.
"He told officers that he definitely had a plan, something that he had been thinking about since Christmas of last year," she said.
She later added: "And he had been recently watching videos of the Charleston mass shooting down in South Carolina and other mass shootings so that he could learn what to do and what not to do."
He had bought the guns within the past week and planned to shoot himself and his roommate if Steber didn't get into a fraternity and the roommate did, Wickline said. She said it wasn't clear if he bought the guns legally.
She said Steber didn't appear to have any criminal history.
The court set his bond on the firearms charges at $2 million.
His father, who came down from Massachusetts, sat in court for the brief hearing where Steber appeared via video link.
"This is any parent's worst nightmare," defense attorney John Bryson said in court. "He's obviously very concerned about his son."
Bryson declined further comment in an email after the hearing.
Statement from High Point University:
Dear HPU family,
The safety and security of the HPU family is our top priority. As we begin a new school year, we experienced an unfortunate situation today.
While there is no immediate threat, we are informing you that this evening, students reported to HPU staff that another student had possession of two firearms. Due to the diligence of the students who reported this and the swift response of HPU security, the firearms were confiscated and the matter was turned over to the High Point Police Department. The owner of the firearms has been removed from campus.
North Carolina law prohibits any person, including a concealed handgun permit holder, from carrying a firearm, openly or concealed, on educational property or at a curricular or extracurricular activity sponsored by a public or private primary school, community college, college or university.
HPU Security and HPPD appreciate that students reported finding the firearms to HPU staff. HPU encourages students to follow the rule of “If you see something, say something.”
Students and families can review HPU Security’s safety tips anytime online by clicking here. If you have questions or concerns, please contact HPU Security at 336-841-9112.