‘Hero’ students at Utah State University may have prevented a disaster
LOGAN, Utah – Students at Utah State University may have averted a tragedy. When things weren’t adding up with a classmate, they did the right thing.
It’s a case where students did everything right. Even though their classmate became angry, they still reported his suspicious behavior to police.
Students at USU befriended 21-year-old Nicholas O’Connor, of San Jose, who was attending school there. But they soon noticed something wasn’t right.
“He wanted them to buy gun parts, and he was willing to pay for them so that he could go undetected, which is very disconcerting as a restricted person himself,” said Chief Mike Keuhn, Campus Police, Utah State University.
Authorities believe O’Connor wanted a “mini uzi.” When the students asked him about his intentions, his answers were equally worrisome: “Just simply, ‘Oh no, don’t worry. I’m not going to shoot you.’ And that’s very concerning in and of itself,” Keuhn said.
Campus police did some digging and found O’Connor was out on bail for vandalism and weapon charges in California. Last fall, he destroyed security cameras at Willow Glen High School, and Booksin Elementary School.
Because the USU students spoke up, Thursday a California judge revoked his bail.
O’Connor is now back behind bars in San Jose.
Speaking up like that, is something experts say takes courage.
“‘How’s this going to affect me? Will my peers think something? Will they think I told on someone?’ But really, that’s what preventing violence is all about is making sure we stand up when we see something we’re not comfortable with,” said Amanda DeRito with Utah State University.
Police say what the students did was exemplary. Trusting your gut and knowing what to look for are key.
“Strange requests such as this, some kind of odd behavior, any number of things. The point is, don’t be afraid to say something. Don’t think to yourself, ‘Well, it’s nothing,’ because it really might be something,” Keuhn said.
USU has a campus-wide program beginning with incoming freshman where they teach students that if you see something, say something. In this case, they believe it may have saved lives.
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