Two students at a private university in Florida may have thwarted a mass shooting Thursday by saying something. That's according to police, who responded to their alert and arrested a student carrying a collapsible semi-automatic rifle, six loaded magazines, and plenty more ammunition in his backpack. John Hagins, a 19-year-old student at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, had been leaving his off-campus apartment as police apprehended him around 9:30am, per WFTV and WESH. Hours earlier, two students had alerted campus security (who called police) to threatening messages in a Snapchat group chat. Hagins allegedly posted a photo of the rifle, saying he'd "finished my school shopping," per the Daytona Beach News-Journal.
Hagins allegedly also wrote that he planned to visit a firing range and "once he was done at that firing range, he was going to campus to enact a Columbine," meaning a mass shooting like the one at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999, Daytona Beach Police Chief Jakari Young said at a press conference, per NBC News. Hagins told police that he was on his way to the firing range. He also confessed to making the statements, 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," the police chief said, per NBC. "We could have had a tragedy unfold today," he added, per WFTV.
He said Hagins, an aeronautical science major on academic probation, had received a traffic citation on campus the previous day. It appeared he then sold his vehicle to purchase the firearm, Young said. Young also noted the campus was to be packed with students completing final exams on Thursday, "the last day before winter break," which "was all in his plan." But "by the Grace of God those two students came forward and thwarted that plan," Young said. They "allowed us to get to work right away and bring Hagins into custody." Hagins—charged with terrorism, attempted first-degree homicide, and written threats to injure or kill—is to be held without bond at least until an initial court appearance. (Read more terrorism stories.)