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Licensed Gun Owning Student Arrested, Firearms Seized

Rochester Democrat & Chronicle | April 18, 2007
Fernando Diaz

A Rochester Institute of Technology student was arrested and suspended from classes after authorities discovered he had two assault rifles and hundreds of rounds of ammunition a day after the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history.

Jonathan Hackenburg, a 22-year-old engineering senior from Hackettstown, N.J., told Monroe County sheriff's deputies and campus safety officials he had a valid federal firearms license and purchased the weapons, a STAG-15 and another model similar to that used by U.S. military personnel, in his home state.

Deputies recovered the rifles, which Hackenburg said he had just assembled, from his dorm room but did not find ammunition there, said RIT spokesman Robert Finnerty. Deputies later found more than 200 rounds of ammunition and four, 30-round magazines in his car, according to the Sheriff's Office.


"Thankfully it was resolved without incident," said Monroe County Sheriff Patrick O'Flynn, adding that Hackenburg did not appear to have threatened using the weapons. He also told investigators he was a gun collector who spent time rebuilding firearms.

A university employee heard a suspicious sound at the RIT Inn and Conference Center on West Henrietta Road and alerted campus safety officials about 11:15 a.m. Tuesday, Finnerty said. Hackenburg admitted possessing the weapons after he was questioned.

Hackenburg was arraigned on two counts of third-degree criminal possession of a firearm, both felonies, and fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon, a misdemeanor, for having the rifles on school property. It is illegal to possess firearms on school grounds in New York. It is also illegal to possess assault rifles here, said O'Flynn.

"There's a reason these laws are in place."

Students, faculty and staff were notified of the arrest Tuesday evening, according to Finnerty, who also commended the university employee for alerting authorities.

Finnerty said that RIT, like most college communities, was on heightened alert after Monday's mass shooting at Virginia Tech, where more than 30 students and faculty were killed.

Some here were shocked to learn late Tuesday of the arrest.

Steve Damiri, 32, a graduate student teacher, said he was notified by e-mail about 5:30 p.m. after teaching a class.

"If people are criticizing Virginia Tech for waiting 21/2 hours to announce something like that, why did it take us six hours for something that could be very similar here?"

Finnerty said officials informed the community at large only after authorities had fully assessed the situation. "Those things take time," he said.

Hackenburg was remanded to the Monroe County Jail with a $15,000 cash bail. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for later this week.

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