Scare leaves students gunshy

University Police arrested a 47-year-old man early Tuesday morning for felony possession of a firearm on school property.

Just one day after students returned to classes at Virginia Tech following last week’s shootings, police say they found non-USF affiliate Cloal Leatherman asleep in his car in possession of two firearms, ammo and a six-inch survival knife.

According to UP spokeswoman Meg Ross, Leatherman parked in a space clearly marked “staff” in the parking lot of the University Police Department. When he didn’t get out, police became suspicious.

When officers checked the car they say they saw a .38 caliber Rossi revolver slightly exposed lying under Leatherman’s leg.

Leatherman then admitted to having a shotgun in the trunk, and a search of the vehicle yielded the knife and more than 70 rounds of ammunition, police say.


Though Ross called the incident untimely, she said Leatherman didn’t pose a threat to student safety at USF.

“There was no indication he was planning on using (the guns),” said Ross. “He had them, but he was not threatening.”

As part of increased emphasis on effective emergency communication, UP posted a press release on its Web site concerning the arrest by 11:13 a.m. However, students didn’t start receiving e-mails directly from USF until approximately 1:00 p.m.

The lag was due in part to processing time that it takes to send e-mails to a student body of more than 40,000 students, said Associate Vice President of Student Affairs James Dragna.

According to Dragna, the University’s much touted MoBull Plus emergency communication system was not used because administrators did not want to cause undo panic resulting from a situation they felt had been properly dealt with and contained.

MoBull Plus is an elective emergency communication and advertising system, which delivers alerts via text message. It is the limitation of the text message field that University officials said could lead to alarm.

“We were confident the situation was contained, and some information (if delivered via text message) may have been confusing,” said Dragna. “We didn’t want the emotional aftermath to affect people. We wanted to tend to people’s reactions to this type of event, especially after Virginia Tech.”

Though the system wasn’t used in this situation, Dragna emphasized the effectiveness of MoBull as an emergency alert system. Had this situation been perceived as potentially harmful for students, MoBull would have been used, Dragna said.

A ‘nice, normal individual’ Leatherman is an employee of Aricon, a contracting firm that currently deals in residential construction near Tampa International Airport.

He has held the job for only three weeks, but according to one coworker, he has earned a reputation as kind and hard working.

Leatherman had not missed a day of work before Tuesday but had scheduled an appointment to see a physician for an ankle injury he had obtained off-the-job Monday, said Ahdella Pyun, Aricon Office Secretary.

“He was a nice, normal individual. So far, he has not been late and has not taken any leave – a nice guy,” she said. “It seems like the poor guy was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

.410 gauge Snake Charmer 2

According to Ross, Leatherman was cooperative and indicated during his arrest that he didn’t have any place to live. He did have a concealed weapons permit for the .38-caliber pistol, but it is illegal to possess any firearm on any Florida State University System campus, she said.

Leatherman was arrested and transported to Orient Road Jail where he was originally held on $2,000 bail. However, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office Web site, the bail was revoked. It is unclear why.

The shotgun Leatherman was carrying – a single-shot .410 gauge Snake Charmer 2 – is commonly used for home protection and warding off small game, said Juan Delgado, a supervisor of Shooting Sports Inc.

A .410 is the least powerful shotgun gauge commercially available but is, Delgado said, still “extremely lethal.”

“People use Snake Charmers instead of 12-gauge shotguns because of the cost of the weapon and the ammo and the compact size,” Delgado said.