Police arrested a North Carolina university student who admitted to planning a mass shooting at his school, authorities said on Wednesday, Aug. 28.
Officers charged Paul Steber, a 19-year-old freshman at High Point University in North Carolina, with two felony counts of having a gun on campus and an additional count for making threats of mass violence on Tuesday after a classmate reported him, police said.
Steber allegedly had ammunition and two firearms—a 9 mm semi-automatic pistol and a double-barrel, 12-gauge shotgun—in his dorm room when he was arrested. Authorities said he does not appear to have any criminal history.
He had been plotting the shooting since December and had studied previous shootings, including the 2015 church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, prosecutors revealed at a court hearing Wednesday.
Steber, a Boston native, told authorities that he came to North Carolina because it was easier to gain access to guns, prosecutors said. He said he intended to carry out shooting by Christmas.
Police did not offer specific details about his plans, but prosecutors said Steber desperately wanted to pledge a fraternity and the plot hinged on whether or not he got into one.
Prosecutors said he purchased the firearms last weekend in North Carolina, and that he planned to kill himself and his roommate if Steber didn’t get into a fraternity and the roommate did.
It’s unclear if the weapons were purchased legally, but North Carolina law prohibits any person, including a concealed handgun permit holder, from carrying firearms on educational property.
The High Point Police Department praised the student who reported Steber to school administrators in a statement Wednesday.
“This incident illustrates the importance of the public reporting suspicious activity to authorities,” the statement said. “Information from the public is often the critical first step in preventing acts of mass violence.”
High Point University officials issued a similar statement to students and faculty in the wake of the arrest.
“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 university said in a statement. “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.”
Steber was being held on a $2 million bond as of late Wednesday.