‘By the grace of God’: Embry-Riddle student arrested before he could commit mass shooting, police say

Kel Tec SUB2000 and ammunition found inside John Hagins backpack, according to police (Copyright 2021 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Daytona Beach Police Chief Jakari Young said police were able to stop a potential mass shooting at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University on Thursday, News4JAX’s sister station WKMG reported.

Police arrested John Hagins, 19, Thursday morning outside of his home at Andros Isles Apartments, which is about three and a half miles from the university.

According to Young, Hagins was speaking with two other Embry-Riddle students on Snapchat when he sent disturbing messages about a desire to “enact a Columbine,” a reference to the infamous 1999 mass shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado.

“By the grace of God, those two students came forward and thwarted that plan,” Young said.

The chief said when officers were contacted about the threat, they set up a perimeter around Hagins’ apartment.

John Hagins, 19 (Copyright 2021 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.)

“While we were getting a search warrant, he ends up coming out so we were able to grab him and detain him,” Young said. “Once we detained him, we immediately noticed that he had this backpack. You can see there’s a magazine that he had in this backpack. Contained inside the backpack was a collapsible rifle.”

Police identified the rifle as a Kel Tec SUB2000. The chief also showed that there were several rounds of 9mm ammunition inside the backpack, along with six magazines.

Young said when Hagins was leaving his apartment, he planned to head to a gun range prior to heading to Embry-Riddle.

“He has already confessed to making these statements (on social media). He has confessed to it. 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,” Young said.

Young also pointed out that Thursday was the last day before winter break.

“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 exam,” the chief said.

Young said the gun Hagins had in his backpack was a recent purchase.

“(Hagins) referenced that he finished his school shopping is what he said. In that (social media) message, he had the picture of this firearm,” he said.

According to a news release, Hagins sold his vehicle in order to purchase the gun.

Young added that officers are still searching to see if the 19-year-old had any more guns; however, he said they believe the man was acting alone.

According to a news release, Hagins faces numerous charges, but “exact charges have yet to be determined.”

Detectives are still trying to piece together the exact motive, but we have learned that Hagins was in danger of failing classes and was also cited for a traffic infraction while on campus yesterday, the release reads.

Embry-Riddle released a statement following the arrest. The statement reads:

“The safety of our students, faculty, staff and community is our No. 1 priority. Earlier today, an Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University student was arrested and is being held in custody without bail. Our Campus Safety officers are working closely with the Daytona Beach Police Department. We are thankful to law enforcement officers, who moved swiftly and did exactly what they are trained to do to keep everyone safe. The university immediately notified the entire community of the police activity. A lockdown did not become necessary. The student was trespassed and suspended and cannot return to our campus. Out of an abundance of caution, increased security protocols will be maintained on campus. But again, the Embry-Riddle campus is secure. Unescorted reporters cannot come onto campus at this time.”

About the Author:

Thomas Mates is a digital storyteller for News 6 and ClickOrlando.com. He also produces the podcast Florida Foodie. Thomas is originally from Northeastern Pennsylvania and worked in Portland, Oregon before moving to Central Florida in August 2018. He graduated from Temple University with a degree in Journalism in 2010.