Police: Snapchat led to arrest of student planning campus shooting

"We thank them all for seeing something and saying something" said Daytona Beach Police Chief Jakari Young

By Michelle Marchante
Miami Herald

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — An Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University student with ties to South Florida was arrested after police say they received tips he was planning a campus shooting on the last day before winter break.

John Hagins, 19, was arrested Thursday outside his apartment in Daytona Beach on charges of written threats to injure or kill, terrorism and attempted first-degree homicide, according to Daytona Beach police.

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University)

Police say he is from North Miami Beach. His Facebook page says he graduated in 2020 from Monsignor Edward Pace High School, a Catholic school near Miami Opa-locka Executive Airport.

Police say they found a folding gun and ammunition in his backpack.

His plan was to practice at a gun range before heading to Embry-Riddle, where Hagins stated he was going to “enact a Columbine,” Daytona Beach Police Chief Jakari Young said at a news conference.

Thursday was the last day of school at Embry-Riddle before winter break and was expected to be packed with students taking finals, Young said.

Police said it appears Hagins sold his truck to buy the gun and ammunition. Investigators also found social media messages Hagins had written “where he laid out his plans” to take the gun and hundreds of rounds of ammunition to campus inside his bookbag, according to police.

“He’s already confessed to making these statements. ... He may want to claim it was all a joke, he wasn’t serious about it. We don’t find anything funny about discussing a mass shooting on campus,” Young said.

Young credited Hagins’ arrest to two students who received a concerning Snapchat message and reported it to the school, which contacted police around 4:10 a.m.

“We could have had a tragedy unfold today. ... We thank them all for seeing something and saying something,” Young said.

Detectives say they don’t have a motive yet, but have learned that Hagins was in danger of failing his classes at the university and was also cited for a traffic infraction on campus earlier in the week.

Hagins was scheduled to make his first court appearance Friday afternoon. No attorney information was listed in court records, as of Friday morning.

Several students from Miami-Dade County Public Schools were also arrested this week over school threats, which police determined were hoaxes.

A 12-year-old student from Broward County Public Schools was also arrested Thursday after police found a slingshot, two rocks and four knives in his backpack.

Last week, a 15-year-old student in Michigan was arrested and charged with a high school shooting that left four students dead and seven others wounded, including a teacher.

[NEXT: What police can learn from school violence close calls]

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