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SU student stopped from carrying out threats of a mass shooting, police say

CNYCentral file photo of Syracuse University

A Syracuse University student was stopped from carrying out threats of a mass shooting.

According to Syracuse Police, Xiaoteng Zhan, 22, had stockpiled ammunition and gun accessories in his downtown apartment at Creekwalk Commons.

Police say people speaking up helped stop Zhan before he could carry out threats of a mass shooting.

A statement was sent to Syracuse University students Thursday night. Chief Enforcement Law Officer Tony Callisto said the Syracuse University community was never in danger.

Officials said as the investigation progressed, the university revoked Zhan’s status as a student.

Police say he traveled to Mexico during spring break but was sent back to China by federal agents after he returned.

Deputy Police Chief Derek McGork said it this was a result of many people working together.

There is no evidence that Zhan ever obtained a gun, McGork said.

Officials said it started on March 12 from a tip from The Gun Store in Nelson, it said that Zhan wanted to buy an AR-15.

The shop owner called the police. He noted that Zhan was not a U.S citizen but in the country on a student visa.

Zhan had a valid hunting license which allowed him to possess a gun as a non-citizen, officials said.

He had taken a gun safety course in Verona.

Zhan also asked about high capacity shotguns. The store owner then copied said he down Zhan’s license plate number after refusing to sell him firearms.

Madison County authorities quickly tracked the car to Zhan.

Authorities also found out he had recently sought out psychiatric care at two different facilities.

According to McGork, records show he described drinking, suicidal thoughts, major depression, thoughts of driving a car into a tree, feeling like he might lose control and violence toward no one in particular.

Mental health professionals agreed he wasn’t someone who should have a gun, McGork said.

Further investigation revealed Zhan went to Dick’s Sporting Goods at Destiny USA and asked about a specific rifle.

On March 16 police were contacted about an alarm that had gone off in his room at his apartment. While no one was there, an employee used the master key to get inside.

The worker then found ammunition inside. By then, authorities discovered Zhan was in Mexico on spring break, officials said.

Friends also contacted Syracuse University about his behavior on March 16.

On March 19, police had enough evidence to gain a search warrant.

Inside his apartment, police found ammunition and other gun accessories.

Syracuse University then revoked Zhan’s status as a student, making his visa invalid.

Federal agents were waiting for him when he flew to Newark from Mexico. Zhan was immediately deported to China, officials said.

McGork said authorities were lucky he had left the country on spring break when they caught up with him and that next time, we might not be so lucky.

A statement was sent to Syracuse University students Thursday night. Chief Enforcement Law Officer Tony Callisto said the Syracuse University community was never in danger.

You can read the full statement from Syracuse University here:

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff:
Earlier this evening, a local media outlet published a story about an incident involving a now former Syracuse University student.
Several law enforcement agencies identified that student as posing a potential threat to public safety. When the University learned about the situation, the student was already out of the country. The student never returned to Syracuse, New York and the Syracuse University community was never in danger.
As a result of the quick action and tremendous collaboration between federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, the potential threat was swiftly eradicated.
Because of the nature of the case, Syracuse University honored the request of law enforcement to maintain confidentiality while the investigation was underway to prevent jeopardizing the outcome.
Per our University policy, and because this was a student conduct matter, we will not be providing further details.
Ensuring the safety and well-being of all members of our campus community is and will always be Syracuse University’s chief priority. Any behaviors that violate our community standards, values or Code of Conduct will not be tolerated and will be met with appropriate disciplinary action.
If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
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