According to police in Florida, two students at a Daytona Beach university may have prevented a mass shooting by informing campus security about messages shared in a Snapchat group.
Daytona Beach Police Chief Jakari Young stated at a press conference that officers arrested John Hagins, 19, a student at the private Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, early Thursday morning over an alleged “plot to shoot up” the campus.
Before students left for the winter break, Hagins threatened to carry out an attack similar to the 1999 mass shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, according to Young.
Concerned by Hagins’ messages, two of his classmates reported their concerns to campus security, who notified police at around 4:10 a.m.
“It was a Snapchat group chat that they were in, and they were very concerned about what was being relayed in this Snapchat group chat,” Young explained. Police responded quickly to Hagins’ residence and apprehended him as he was leaving his apartment. In his backpack, the 19-year-old was carrying a collapsible rifle, a magazine, and boxes of ammunition.
Young stated that Hagins intended to go to a shooting range to practice with the firearm, which the 19-year-old appeared to have sold his vehicle to purchase, before heading to school.
And, if he had made it to campus, Young said police suspected him of carrying out a sinister plot based on social media messages discovered by investigators.
“Today is the last day of school before winter break.” Today is the final day. It’s finals day today. Exams at the end. So, this was all part of the plan because the campus (would) be packed today because everyone had to be there to take their final exam, so this was all part of his plan,” Young explained. “By the Grace of God,” he said, “those two students came forward and thwarted that plan.”
Young stated that Hagins has since admitted to making the statements, but added, “He may want to claim that it was all a joke and he wasn’t serious about it.” But we don’t find it amusing to talk about a mass shooting on a college campus. He’s got it if he was looking for it.”
“He said that once he finished at the firing range, he was going to campus to stage a Columbine.” “According to the police chief.
The Daytona Police Department said in a separate statement on Thursday that Hagins had been charged with written threats to injure or kill, attempted first degree homicide, and terrorism.
They said the 19-year-old would be held without bond for all three charges until his first appearance in front of a judge. Detectives are still working to determine an exact motive, according to police. However, the department stated that a detective discovered Hagins was “in danger of failing classes” at his college and was also cited for a traffic infraction while on campus on Wednesday.
His arrest comes just days after a mass shooting in Michigan killed four students at Oxford High School in suburban Detroit on November 30.
Prosecutors have stated that they believe the attack could have been avoided if the suspect’s parents had acted after being informed of allegations of disturbing behavior.
In that case, the suspect, Ethan Crumbley, 15, has also been charged with terrorism, which is a relatively uncommon charge in connection with a school shooting.
Former U.S. attorneys previously told the news that the development could inspire authorities elsewhere to consider bringing terrorism charges in connection with mass shootings. It’s unclear whether Crumbley’s charges influenced the decision to charge Hagins with terrorism. When Young was first informed of Hagins’ threats, the Michigan shooting was the first thing that came to mind.
The chief of police urged others to follow in the footsteps of the two students who “stepped up, came forward, and brought this to our attention.”
“You say something if you see something.” “This is how we combat what is happening in this country right now,” he said.