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N.C. college student from Boston allegedly threatened mass violence

Suspect Paul A. Steber, 19, of Boston is a freshman at High Point University in North Carolina.
Suspect Paul A. Steber, 19, of Boston is a freshman at High Point University in North Carolina. High Point Police Department

A Boston teenager had been researching mass shootings for about nine months and had a “plan and timeline to kill people” on his college campus in North Carolina, prosecutors said Wednesday.

Paul A. Steber, 19, was arrested in his dorm room at High Point University Tuesday night, less than two weeks after he arrived on campus, authorities said. He had bought two guns — a semi-automatic pistol and a double-barrel shotgun — last week, and told police he was plotting to “shoot up” the school.

“He said that he definitely had a plan and was going to do something by Christmas,” said Guilford County Assistant District Attorney Lori Wickline. Steber, who attended a private high school in the Back Bay, told police he chose the university — a small private college about 15 miles outside Greensboro — because he thought it was easier to buy guns in North Carolina.

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Steber told police he had watched video of Dylann Roof — the man who, driven by white supremacist beliefs, killed nine black parishioners in a South Carolina church in 2015.

Steber also told police he and his roommate were rushing a fraternity and that he planned to kill his roommate — and himself — if his roommate were accepted and he wasn’t, Wickline said.

“He wanted the full college experience; he wasn’t going to be an outcast,” she said.

Reached by phone, relatives of Steber declined to comment. His lawyer could not be reached for comment. Steber attended The Newman School in Boston, according to reports.

Students notified campus security that Steber had guns and ammunition in his room, police said. Officers seized the firearms and took Steber in for questioning, they said.

“Students reported to HPU staff that another student had possession of two firearms. 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 owner of the firearms has been removed from campus,” university officials wrote in an e-mail sent to the campus community.

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Steber was charged with two felony counts of possessing weapons on campus and one count of communicating a threat of mass violence on educational property, police said. He pleaded not guilty and was ordered held without bail.

North Carolina law criminalizes threats of mass violence, which allows authorities to hold him without a bond for 10 days while they evaluate him, Wickline said. His next court hearing, on Sept. 6, will be to determine conditions of release for that charge. He is also being held on $2 million bond for the firearm possession charges.

Authorities are investigating whether he had purchased the guns legally, Wickline said. It is illegal to have firearms on campus in North Carolina.

Classes at High Point University began Aug. 20, said Pam Haynes, a university spokeswoman. Steber, who had declared a political science major, is banned from campus, she said.

“This incident illustrates the importance of the public reporting suspicious activity to authorities,” police said a news release. “Information from the public is often the critical first step in preventing acts of mass violence.”


Gal Tziperman Lotan can be reached at gal.lotan@globe.com or at 617-929-2043. Emily Sweeney can be reached at esweeney@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney.

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