DAYTONA BEACH – A mass shooting at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University was prevented on Thursday when police caught a student walking out of his apartment armed with a collapsible semi-automatic rifle and hundreds of bullets, Daytona Beach police Chief Jakari Young.
The suspect, John Hagins, 19, was taken into custody shortly after 9:30 a.m. at the Andros Isle Apartments at 100 Acklins Circle in Daytona Beach, Young said.
Hagins had plotted to carry out the mass shooting on the last day of classes at the University, which was Thursday, Young said.
“The plan was he was going to leave from his apartment and he was headed over to Volusia Top Gun for practice and then he was headed to Embry Riddle,” Young said.
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Young said the campus would have been packed on Thursday.
“Today is the last day before winter break. Today is the last day, today is finals final exams so this was all a part of the plan because today the campus will be packed because everybody has to be there to take their final exam so this was all in his plan,” Young said.
Police were called by officials at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University at 4:10 a.m. after a couple students, who were part of a Snapchat group Hagins was in, warned officials of threats Hagins made on social media, Young said.
The threats to shoot up the school alarmed the students, including one that stated “I finished my school shopping” making reference to the 9 mm caliber Keltec rifle that Hagins had in a backpack with almost 300 rounds of ammunition, Young said.
“By the Grace of God those two students came forward and prevented Embry Riddle Aeronautical University from being the next national media story with regards to a mass shooting on that campus,” Young said.
Once police were notified, investigators began looking for Hagins. When they learned that he lived at the Andros Isle Apartments, police surrounded his apartment, Young said.
Young said that as police waited for a warrant to enter Hagins’ apartment, the Embry Riddle student came out.
“We were able to grab him and detain him and once we detained him, we immediately noticed that he had this backpack and you can see there’s a magazine that he had in this backpack,” Young said. “Contained inside the backpack was a collapsible rifle,” Young said.
Daytona Beach police Sgt. Tim Ehrenhaufer said Hagins was startled and shocked to find that police surrounded his home. He even asked how long police had been waiting outside, Ehrenkaufer said.
Young said several boxes of 9mm ammunition were in the backpack. Five loaded magazines, each holding 17 rounds, and an extended magazine loaded with 32 rounds, were also found in the bag. A rifle scope was also with the weapon, the chief said.
“He was loaded for bear,” Young said.
Hagins confessed to making the threats but told investigators that it was all a joke, Young said.
“He may want to claim that it was all a joke and he wasn’t serious about it but we don’t find anything funny about discussing a mass shooting on a campus,” Young said. “If he was looking for attention, he’s got it. I don’t think he wanted the kind of attention that he has but he’s got it.”
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Young said when he got the call about the plot early Thursday, he immediately thought of the mass shooting at Oxford High School in Michigan on Nov. 30 but was surprised to learn Hagins was thinking of another mass shooting that occurred in Colorado in 1999.
“In actuality he referenced Columbine,” Young said. “He said once he was done at that firing range he was going to campus to enact a Columbine (shooting).”
Hagins was an undergraduate student at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University and was majoring in Aeronautical Science, said university spokeswoman Ginger Pinholster.
Pinholster declined to comment on how Hagins was doing in school or whether Hagins had disciplinary issues at the university, citing privacy laws.
“I was just want to say that we are safe and secure here,” Pinholster said. “There is no reason to believe there are any further threats whatsoever.”
In a statement Embry Riddle Aeronautical University made public on Thursday, university officials said they were working closely with the Daytona Beach Police Department. The university immediately notified the entire community of the police activity and a lockdown was not necessary, according to the statement.
“The student was trespassed and suspended and cannot return to our campus,” the university said.
Police are still trying to figure out what motive Hagins had for his planned shooting but Young said Hagins was on academic probation his grade point average had fallen below a 2.0 average.
“We have learned that Hagins was in danger of failing classes at ERAU and was also cited for a traffic infraction while on campus yesterday (Wednesday),” a news release from Daytona Beach police said.
This article originally appeared on The Daytona Beach News-Journal: Armed ERAU student arrested for school shooting plot, police said