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.

Chrissy Murphy is a staff writer and can be reached at cmurphy@morganton.com or at 828-432-8941. Follow @cmurphyMNH on Twitter.

(4) comments

Susan O

He has been stalking not just the women that told but another woman too. It was not a relationship that went south, the women was trying help him as she thought he had special needs. More real and dangerous when you know the facts that the gun was not under his clothes, it was in his baggy pants pocket and the gun was loaded.


IT SEEMS THE COLLEGE ITN'S TAKING THIS MATTER SERIOUS OUR CHILDREN, and family members go to WPCC we need to know that they are safe. One of the students said that young man sat right behind them in class that very day I find this very disturbing. So get with it WPCC


Why was he released and not put under a psych hold? It’s disturbing that this is described as a relationship gone south. Since when is stalking and the victim trying to be nice to someone who has a problem a “relationship”. They were not in a romantic relationship. We hear “See something, say something”. She said something. We hear about these cases all the time. Someone sees and says something, but nothing really happens. If they won’t put him in jail for stalking, at least put him in jail for bringing a gun to a “Gun Free Zone” or let everyone carry, so they can protect themselves.


Why didnt the school notify the students or the staff thru some kind of alert system. Its clear the young man has some mental health issues and this scenario could had ended up being worse than it was nextime wpcc needs to alert staff and students which students were not and classroom doors were open

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