John Hagins, a 19-year-old student at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, was arrested Thursday after allegedly plotting to carry out a mass shooting at his Florida school, according to reports. Daytona Beach police said students at the college tipped them off about disturbing posts on Hagins’ Snapchat account.
Hagins was charged with terrorism, written threats, and attempted murder, authorities said. He is being held without bond at a Volusia County jail until he can be arraigned before a judge.
Police: John Hagins Plotted School Shooting
According to the Daytona Beach Police Department, students reported that Hagins made troubling social media posts shortly before his arrest. On a Snapchat group message, the 19-year-old allegedly laid out his chilling plan to smuggle a folding gun and thousands of rounds of ammunition on campus in his backpack.
“It was a Snapchat group message that they were involved in, and they were very concerned about what was being relayed in this Snapchat group chat,” said Police Chief Jakari Young in a press conference Thursday. Investigators said they believe Hagins intended to carry out the attack the same day he was caught and arrested.
“Today is the last day, today is the 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 exams,” Young told reporters. “By the Grace of God those two students came forward and thwarted that plan.”
Police said they apprehended Hagins as he was leaving his home Thursday, where they found the folding gun, backpack, and ammunition described by witnesses. Chillingly, authorities said the 19-year-old was going to practice his shooting at a range when he was arrested.
“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 campus,” Young said. “He said once he was done at that firing range, he was going to campus to enact a Columbine.”
University president P. Barry Butler issued a statement late Thursday thanking the students who reported Hagins and calling for calm on campus.
“Law enforcement officers, Campus Safety, and our students did an exceptional job today and helped keep our community safe, and we are in their debt,” Butler wrote. “It was an admittedly frightening event, but our security systems worked and we are all safe […] Thank you to all who helped.”
Questions Linger in Near-Shooting at Embry-Riddle
In a statement issued Friday, police said they’re still investigating the alleged plot.
“Detectives are still trying to piece together the exact motive, but 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,” authorities wrote. It’s not clear how long Hagins was believed to be plotting the shooting, though the New York Post reported that the 19-year-old sold his car recently to buy the weapon and ammunition he allegedly intended to use.
According to a police press release and Volusia County jail records available online, Hagins was booked on one count of first-degree attempted homicide in the first degree, written threats to injure or kill, and terrorism — all felonies under Florida law.
If convicted of the attempted murder charge, Hagins could face life in prison. The penalties for the other charges are conditional based on an offender’s criminal history and the judge’s own interpretation.
The 19-year-old was being held without bond on all three charges late Friday. His arraignment does not appear to have been scheduled, and it isn’t clear if he has a lawyer.