A man was charged after police said he admitted to bringing a pistol to a local community college campus Monday.
Paul Benjamin Whisnant, 23, was charged with felony having a weapon on campus or other educational property on Tuesday for bringing a Smith and Wesson 733 .32-caliber revolver to Western Piedmont Community College, according to the arrest warrant and report.
Maj. Ryan Lander said the arrest came after Whisnant’s relationship with another student at WPCC went south. The other student reported that Whisnant brought the gun to school somewhat concealed under his clothes.
The student said Whisnant made comments that he was considering harming himself, Lander said. Police did not believe he made any threatening comments to other students.
Once police were able to track down Whisnant, they conducted a welfare check and he admitted to bringing the gun on campus, and to making comments that he was considering harming himself, Lander said.
Whisnant said he didn’t have any intentions to follow through with his statements on hurting himself.
Lander said situations like this always are taken seriously, and that Whisnant was charged for the safety of everyone involved.
Michael Helmick, president of WPCC, said Whisnant is no longer a student at the community college. He said the concerned student reported the incident directly to police, who got the community college involved when they were trying to identify Whisnant.
Helmick agreed with Lander that situations like this always should be taken seriously.
“I consider this a critical incident,” Helmick said. “Anytime we have a student who is on campus [with a weapon] that these things can sometimes spin out of control, so we have met with vice presidents and the dean of student services to discuss this.”
WPCC completed active shooter training in May, and Helmick said their response for this incident followed the text book. He said campus did not get locked down because the campus was not made aware of the incident until it had passed, but campus security was involved in helping MDPS.
Helmick pointed out that there were two main reasons to take this incident very seriously.
“One is that having a weapon on campus is illegal, but the other, where you threaten harm to yourself, that sends off a lot of alarm bells,” Helmick said. “Ultimately, what we want to is make sure that our students and staff and faculty are protected, but in this case, it was the student that we were concerned about.”
Helmick said he hoped Whisnant would get help.
“We are praying that he gets the help he needs and that this doesn’t become an event in the future,” Helmick said.
Whisnant was issued a $3,000 secured bond and had a court date set for Wednesday morning, according to the arrest report.
The Burke County Sheriff’s Office assisted MDPS with the case, Lander said.