Matt Mullins had just returned to his room on the first floor of Cypress C at about 3:30 a.m. Tuesday. Minutes before his return, Mullins said two University Police officers and a resident assistant found a Kel-Tec Sub 2000 folding rifle inside roommate Justin Bedford’s room.
“I walked in, and he was sitting in the living room after they searched his room,” Mullins said. “Justin said they didn’t find anything. Obviously, that wasn’t true because he wasn’t here the next day.”
UP Support Services and Accreditation Manager Lt. Meg Ross said UP would not confirm or deny whether Bedford was the student found in possession of the gun.
Bedford also declined to comment on Friday and Sunday evening.
University officials could not say whether the student was still enrolled Friday, but Brad Newstead, one of Bedford’s other roommates, said a UP officer stood by as Bedford moved out of his dorm with the help of his parents early Saturday morning.
Dean of Students for Student Affairs Kevin Banks said the University is also taking action against the student.
“It’s very upsetting that a student would think they would have to posses a weapon on campus,” Banks said. “There’s just no tolerance for weapons on campus.
“It does raise a number of concerns, and we’ll be talking about what we can do to continue to get the message out that this type of behavior can’t be tolerated here.”
Tuesday, UP spokesman Sgt. Michael Klingebiel said the rifle was found inside a desk drawer in Bedford’s room. A loaded magazine and 40 extra 9mm bullets were also found in the drawer, UP said.
The gun – which is accurate from up to 150 yards away – was not registered to the student, Klingebiel said. According to Klingebiel, the 30-inch rifle is the most serious weapon UP has found on campus in nearly 15 years.
UP impounded the weapon and filed a report with the State Attorney’s Office on Wednesday, suggesting the student be charged with a felony for possession of a weapon on school grounds.
A spokeswoman at the State Attorney’s Office in Hillsborough County said it would take a few days to review the report before deciding whether to charge the student.
According to Klingebiel, the responding officer decided not to make an arrest due to the student’s behavior at the time of the encounter.
“A lot of it is dictated by attitude,” Klingebiel said. “Whether he was cooperative and understanding of laws and age, that all plays into it. Everything the (officer) did was well within the guidelines and is permissible.
“(The student) could have been charged right then and there, but the officer decided to wait and see what the state attorney thought about it.”
Most students who knew Bedford said they didn’t know he had a weapon and did not feel threatened by him.
“He was just a really normal guy,” said Janessa Dominguez, who would walk with Bedford to a chemistry class they had together. “We just got along well.”
Mullins said, “I got the feeling he was a pretty smart kid. But obviously not completely.”
Other students living in the building said they were shocked to hear about the incident three days after it was reported.
“It freaked me out to find out that someone had a gun in my building,” said Jessica Holcomb, who lives on the third floor of Cypress C. “It sounds like he had enough ammo to take out the whole floor.”
“If I was his roommate I’d be pretty nervous,” freshman Ryan Catarelli said. “It goes down to intent, like what was he going to do with the gun? I think it’s very nerve-wracking to have people you don’t know who have guns in their dorms.”
Ross said the circumstances would have been different if the person in possession of the gun had not been a student.
“One of the benefits here with students is the University usually has each student’s permanent residence,” Ross said. “And we have a lot of knowledge of where the person would be.
“I would imagine that if the arresting officer thought he was a flight risk, he would have (arrested him).”