John Hagins is a student at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida, who is accused of plotting a mass shooting “like Columbine” at the school. Hagins, 19, was arrested with a rifle and ammunition in a backpack after police say they received tips from students who saw concerning social media posts made by Hagins.
Daytona Beach Police say Hagins was planning an attack at the college on Thursday, December 9, 2021, which is the last day of exams for the semester. Hagins was charged with written threats to injure or kill, terrorism and attempted first-degree homicide, police said.
Daytona Beach Police Chief Jakari Young said at a press conference the arrest stopped a “credible threat,” and a “plot to shoot up Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.” Young said Hagins referenced the 1999 Columbine High School massacre that left 13 victims and two gunmen dead and was planning to go to a shooting range Thursday morning.
“He said once he was done at that firing range, he was going to campus to enact a Columbine,” Young told reporters at a press conference. “He wanted to create another Columbine.” But Young told reporters Hagins is now claiming the social media posts were a joke. Police said in a news release it, “appears Hagins sold his vehicle to purchase that gun and ammunition.”
Embry-Riddle is a private university with a focus on aviation and aerospace programs, according to its website. The school’s Daytona Beach campus is home to about 6,700 undergraduate students and 780 graduate students, according to the university’s website.
Hagins’ arrest comes a week after a 15-year-old year Oxford High School student killed four students and injured several others in a shooting at the Michigan high school. The suspect in the Michigan shooting was arrested after the mass shooting and is facing several charges. His parents are also facing charges in connection to the shooting. According to a report in The Conversation, school shootings are at a record high in 2021, with more than 222 shootings reported on school properties.
Hagins could not be reached for comment by Heavy and it was not immediately known if he has hired an attorney who could comment on his behalf. Young said in a statement, “We could have had a tragedy unfold today. Instead, these students reported it to the school and that allowed us to get to work right away and bring Hagins into custody before he could carry out his plans. We thank them all for seeing something and saying something.”
1. John Hagins Was Previously Accused of Sexual Assaulting a Woman at a Party, Police Say
Young said Daytona Beach Police began investigating after they received a phone call from Embry-Riddle campus safety about 4 a.m. after two students told campus safety they were concerned about Snapchat group messages they had received. “They were very concerned about what was being relayed in this Snapchat group chat,” Young said. “They were so concerned they respond to campus safety. We get involved and once we come on scene, the investigation goes from there.”
Young said Hagins was planning on carrying out a mass shooting at the university on December 9. “Today is the last day before winter break. Today is finals, final exams, so this was all a part of the plan,” Young said. “Because today, the campus will be packed. Because everybody has to be there to take their final exams. So this was all in his plan. By the grace of God, those students came forward and thwarted that plan. By the grace of God, they came forward and prevented Embry-Riddle Aeronautical from being the next national media story with regards to a mass shooting on that campus.”
According to court documents obtained by Heavy, Hagins was reported to police by two friends, including his former roommate. His ex-roommate told police Hagins had been making good grades and seemed to be a normal student until he was accused of sexually assaulting a woman last year at a party at Embry-Riddle, according to the charging affidavit.
“During that investigation, Hagins’grades began slipping to the point of him failing and he all of a sudden stopped flying,” police wrote in the affidavit. Hagins is a licensed pilot. Hagins’ friend told police, “last week while driving to Orlando to watch some flights, Hagins began talking excessively about purchasing a gun and the gun being able to fold so it could fit inside of his backpack to take to school and ‘shoot it up.'” Police said Hagins’ friend “became more concerned about Hagins when he recently sold his truck, which he seemed to have ambitions about fixing up.”
Hagins’ friend told police that Hagins used the money from the sale of the truck to buy a gun on the Facebook Marketplace. He also bought 800 rounds of ammunition, police said. Hagins showed the gun to his friend and said, “I finished my back to school shopping,” according to the affidavit. He also said he would be buying a silencer.
“The point I want to drive home is the importance of, ‘if you see something, you say something,'” Young said. “This is the way we combat what’s going on in this country right now. Because most people that carry out shootings like this, somebody knows something. But they usually fail to bring it to the authorities’ attention. So, the credit truly goes to those two students that stepped up, came forward and brought this to our attention.”
Young said Hagins has told investigators the social media messages were a joke, claiming he, “wasn’t serious per se about what he said. But he admitted that those were his messages. He said it.” Young said Hagins told police he only had the gun to go to the range.
2. Hagins Was Found With a Collapsible Rifle, a Magazine & Several Boxes of Ammo in His Backpack, Police Say
Young said officers went to the Andros Isles Apartments complex on Acklins Circle in Daytona Beach, where Hagins lives. “We set up a perimeter and while we were getting a search warrant, he ends up coming out,” Young said. “We were able to grab him and detain him. Once we detained him, we immediately noticed that he had this backpack.”
At the press conference, Young held up a yellow backpack to show reporters and said a gun magazine could be seen in the backpack. The police chief opened the bag to reveal a collapsible rifle that he says Young had inside. “The plan was, he was going to leave his apartment, he was headed over to Volusia Top Gun to practice and then he was headed to Embry-Riddle,” Young told reporters.
Young said the gun is a Kel-Tec Sub 2000 rifle. He said they also found several boxes of ammunition in Hagins’ bag. “He was loaded for bear. He was prepared,” Young told reporters. Young did not say when or where Hagins purchased the rifle and ammo and also did not provide other specifics about the gun, including whether it was legally owned by Hagins. But Young said he thinks the gun could have been a recent purchase, because in some social media, Hagins referenced he’d “finished his school shopping,” and included a picture of the gun.
Young said they seized several boxes of 9mm ammo, six magazines, a scope, ear protection and “because the rifle is collapsible, he was able to fold it up and fit it perfectly in his backpack. So if you walk on campus with a backpack, no one would ever suspect a rifle was in his backpack.”
3. Hagins, a Resident of North Miami, Was Suspended by Embry-Riddle & Barred From Campus, Where Police Say He Was Struggling Academically & in Danger of Failing Classes
Hagins is a current student at Embry-Riddle, according to police. He was scheduled to take an exam on Thursday on campus, police said. Hagins is from North Miami, Florida, and has no criminal history, police said. According to a press release from police, Hagins was cited for a traffic infraction on campus on December 8, a day before his arrest. Hagins has been suspended by Embry-Riddle and banned from campus, WESH reports.
According to Young, police are still looking into Hagins’ background. “He was on academic probation. His GPA fell below a 2.0,” Young said. “So he was struggling with his grades.” Police said in a press release that Hagins, “was in danger of failing classes at ERAU.”
According to his Facebook profile, Hagins graduated from Monsignor Edward Pace High School in Miami Gardens, Florida, in 2020. His Instagram page shows Hagins is a pilot and also often takes photos of planes. His photography Instagram says in the bio, “It’s not gay if it’s TSA … @jhagins4 is the main … All pictures are mine.”
The Federal Aviation Administration database shows John Argis Hagins IV has had a private pilot license since October 2020. Hagins is rated to fly single-engine airplanes, according to the FAA database.
4. Hagins, Who Does Not Have a Criminal History, Is Being Held Without Bail as the Investigation Continues, Police Say
Hagins does not have a criminal history and has no history of mental health issues that police are aware of, Young said. The 19-year-old is being held without bail. The investigation is ongoing, police said. He made his first appearance in Volusia County court on December 10 and a judge ordered he continue to be held at the Volusia County Jail until his arraignment, which is scheduled for February 1, 2022, court records show.
Young told reporters, “We have him in custody. He is upstairs now and he has already confessed to making these statements. He has confessed to it. He may want to claim 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. If he was looking for attention, he’s got it. I don’t think he wanted the kind of attention that he has. But he’s got it.”
Young gave credit to his investigators. “From the moment it was brought to our attention, they left no stone unturned. When you want to talk about a relentless follow up on something, these investigators that you see to my right, they did everything they could to make sure we located him, set up a perimeter and got him into custody before he could leave that apartment complex to carry out his plan today,” Young said.
“Investigators are still searching, so there may be additional firearms,” Young told reporters. He said based on the information they’ve obtained through the investigation so far, it is believed Hagins was acting alone and no one else was involved.
“This is an ongoing investigation, so we are still piecing together the specific motive here,” Young told reporters.
5. There Has Been a Rash of Shooting Threats, Hoaxes & False Alarms at Schools Around the Country in the Aftermath of the Oxford High School Shooting in Michigan
Young said at the press conference, “I think everybody in this room is aware that on November 30, we just had a mass shooting on a school campus in Michigan, at Oxford High School. So that was the first thing that dawned on me when I got this phone call this morning.”
“I’m extremely relieved that we are not the next national media story as it relates to a mass shooting on campus. Because the intent was there,” Young told reporters.
There have been reports of threats and hoaxes about possible shootings at high schools and colleges across the country in the wake of the Oxford mass shooting. According to ABC News, multiple students in Michigan alone are facing charges and investigations into threats and false alarms in the wake of the deadly shooting.
“They are saying, ‘I’m going to bomb the school. I’m going to kill people,” Washtenaw County Prosecutor Eli Savit told ABC News. “Even if you believe you make it through an anonymous social media account, law enforcement has ways to track you down and find you and when that happens, you’re going to get charged.”
Embry-Riddle said in a statement, “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.”
Embry-Riddle added, “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.”