TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- A Taiwanese exchange student has been arrested on Tuesday (March 27) for allegedly threatening to "shoot up" a high school in a township near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, reported The Philadelphia Inquirer.
The Taiwan national, identified as 18-year-old Sun An-tso (孫安佐), allegedly threatened to go on a shooting spree at Bonner and Prendergast Catholic High School, where he is currently studying, according to Upper Darby police.
On Monday, Sun allegedly warned a 17-year-old classmate not to go to school on May 1, as he said he "was going to shoot up the school" that day, according to police. The classmate then notified a school social worker, school authorities notified the police and Sun was arrested a 9:38 a.m. the next morning after allowing a detective to question him.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Upper Darby Police Superintendent Micheal Chitwood said that a police search of Sun's bedroom, which is in the home of his host family, revealed that he had used a school-issued iPad to search the internet for ways to purchase AK-47 and AR-15 rifles. They also found a military style bulletproof vest, high-powered crossbow with a scope, 20 rounds of 9 mm ammunition, ammunition clip pouches, military ski mask, ammunition clip loader, and a device used for strangulation called a garrote.
Sun said to the detective that he was "just kidding" when he told his classmate that he was going to go on a shooting spree. However police were not convinced, with Chitwood saying, "When you add it all together, we believe that he was planning something horrible," and that one would have to "be blind" not to observe the evidence in his room.
(Image from Sun's Facebook page)
However, a lawyer retained by Sun's host family, Enrique A. Latoison, said that Sun has acquired the equipment because he was interested in a career in law-enforcement, was planning to major in criminal justice and therefore the family did not consider the items to be suspicious.
Latoison said that none of the items in his possession were illegal and he had brought the ballistic vest with him from Taiwan. He said that the student had worn some of the gear as part of a Halloween costume at the school.
Latoison asserts that because Sun has only been in the U.S. for five months, he was not aware of how seriously a joke about about starting a school shooting spree would be taken. "He said, 'Just kidding.' I understand the heightened sensitivity, but he is not from here, he didn’t possess the same social skills of what it is to grow up in the post-Columbine generation," said Latoison.
Sun is being held in the Delaware County prison on US$100,000 bail having been charged on one misdemeanor count of making terrorist threats, and a preliminary hearing is set for April 11. Chitwood says that Sun is to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.