David “Cole” Withrow has been expelled and received a felony charge for accidentally leaving his shotgun in his truck at school and calling his mother to come pick it up when he realized the mistake. (Photo via “Free Cole”/Facebook)
In a matter of days, North Carolina high school student David "Cole" Withrow's situation has changed dramatically. For one, Liberty University announced Thursday that it will extend a scholarship to Withrow after he was suspended and arrested for accidentally leaving a shotgun in his pick-up truck parked in the school lot.
Withrow, a high school senior and Eagle Scout, had been skeet shooting the day before the incident and inadvertently neglected to store his firearm. Once he realized his error, he immediately locked the gun in his truck and went inside the school to call his mom so she could come pick it up.
But a Princeton High School official overhead Withrow's phone call to his mother and the school promptly called the police. After the gun was discovered in his truck, he was arrested and charged with a felony. The school is not allowing Withrow to return to school of the rest of the year, however, an attorney for Johnston County Schools on Thursday said he will still be allowed to graduate on time by attending an alternative school, WTVD-TV reports.
Now, Liberty University is stepping in to make sure that the high school senior will be able to continue on to college.
"In reaction to the gun control debate in America, Liberty University recently loosened - not strengthened - its concealed weapons policy on campus, and is now providing a scholarship to a North Carolina high school student who was arrested for leaving a shotgun in his pick-up truck in the school parking lot," the school announced in a press release provided to TheBlaze Thursday.
Jerry Falwell, Jr., the school's chancellor, told TheBlaze in a phone interview that he heard about Withrow's story by chance on a local evening news broadcast earlier this week and felt compelled to help. He actually called the student later that night and learned that he wanted to attend Liberty University but couldn't afford it.
Falwell said the school is prepared to "do whatever he needs" to help him complete four years of education at the university. The official terms of the scholarship will be discussed and agreed upon at a later date when the student meets with the school's admissions office, the chancellor added.
"We have a scholarship fund for outstanding students, such as honor students like him. So, because of what he's been through and how he's been mistreated for making an honest mistake…I went ahead and awarded him a scholarship," Falwell told TheBlaze, explaining that Withrow already meets many of the scholarship requirements anyway.
"I think he's a perfect fit for Liberty University," he added. "We will do whatever he needs to complete four years of tuition and room and board."
Falwell said "common sense" should have prevailed in Withrow's case. "I think they were just trying to make a point that guns are evil," he explained. "Our society is just going too far."
Before it was understood that Withrow would be able to graduate by completing an alternative schooling program, Liberty University was also offering to let him wrap-up his high school requirements through their online academy.
Earlier in the day, Falwell released the following statement: "When I reached out to encourage this responsible and impressive young man, I learned that he wanted to go to Liberty University, but couldn't afford it. I told him that we would do whatever he needed so that he can attend Liberty. Anti-gun zealots tried to vilify him for doing the right thing, so Liberty has decided to award him the help he needs to attend a private Christian college. I was really impressed with Cole. He is a humble and meek Christian kid who only wants to do the right thing! We want students like Cole Withrow."
As previously reported by TheBlaze, two school officials had reportedly brought guns onto school property in the past. One, a teacher at another high school within the district, was cited and resigned. The other is actually the assistant principal at Princeton High School where Cole spent the last four years. That person was suspended for three days and still works at the school. Neither case saw criminal charges like those Cole faces.
Liberty University allows qualified students, faculty and staff to carry concealed firearms on campus and in all buildings, excluding residence halls. You can follow Liberty University on twitter @LibertyU.
TheBlaze has reached out to Liberty University and is expected to receive comment soon. We will update this story at that time.