Fact Check

Cole Withrow

A high school student named Cole Withrow was charged for accidentally leaving an unloaded shotgun in his vehicle?

Published May 6, 2013


Claim:   A high school student named Cole Withrow was charged for leaving an unloaded shotgun in his vehicle while parking at school.


Example:   [Collected via Facebook, April 2013]

Meet Cole Withrow from Princeton, NC. Eagle Scout; great student;
devout Christian; responsible citizen. Just two weeks shy of high school
graduation... and now, ACCUSED FELON?!?

Cole arrived to school Monday morning and reached behind the seat of his

truck to get his book bag. He suddenly realized he'd accidentally left his

shotgun in his vehicle after he was out fishing and shooting over the
weekend and that it needed to be returned home immediately.

Afraid of getting in trouble for skipping class, Cole locked his truck,
walked to the front office and called his mother to come and retrieve it,
as he couldn't leave school; he would miss class.

Due to his conversation being overheard by school staff, the police were
called, Cole was arrested and charged with a felony, along with a year's
expulsion. He will not be able to graduate with his class.

If you believe this boy acted responsibly and doesn't deserve this, PLEASE


Origins:   In April 2013, 16-year-old David Cole Withrow, a student at Princeton High School in North Carolina, was charged with bringing a weapon on educational property (a crime which is classified as a felony) and was expelled from the school, preventing him from being able to graduate with his class. According to the account of a family friend, the charges stemmed from Withrow's accidentally leaving an unloaded shotgun in his car after a skeet shooting outing:

Family friend Kim Boykin said Withrow, an Eagle Scout and honors student, accidentally left his gun in the car after skeet shooting over the weekend. When he

realized, he went inside to ask school officials if he could leave campus to take the gun home, but an administrator reported the weapon to police.

"To have him arrested and expelled from school is excessive," she said. "He locks his vehicle, goes inside and tries to do the right thing."

Others in the Princeton High community agree that Withrow's punishment is too harsh, especially after charges weren't filed when a loaded gun was found in an assistant principal's car two years ago. The assistant principal and a school resource officer were each suspended for three days without pay in that incident.

School administrators have not denied the veracity of that account but maintain they are obligated to follow state law when a weapon is brought on campus, as happened in this case:

Johnston County schools spokeswoman Tracey Peedin Jones said the school system has to follow state law regarding weapons on campus.

"Please know that with student and personnel issues,

we carefully balance all factors to arrive at a fair and just outcome," she said in a statement. "Certain items are mandated and we have no choice but to follow the law."

Boykin said Withrow's family isn't upset with school administrators, but believes the law is too strict.

"With no areas for mistakes or human error or gray area in there, that just can't apply to everything," she said.

Students have been painting "Free Cole" on their cars and a local printer even designed a "Free Cole for Doing the Right Thing" bumper sticker.

"I believe he did the right thing by being truthful and being honest," said Joseph Canzaniello of Express Signs. "His integrity will be held intact no matter what happens to him."

Later news accounts reported that the school district had not expelled Withrow and would allow him to finish the academic year at an alternative school and graduate with his class:

School board attorney Jimmy Lawrence said that Withrow has not been expelled and will be allowed to graduate if he meets the normal graduation requirements.

His family is upset he must finish at an alternative school.

Withrow has received a scholarship offer from Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., and from Harding University in Searcy, Ark.

Last updated:   6 May 2013


    WRAL-TV [Raleigh, NC].   "Classmates Rally Round Princeton Student Who Left Gun in Car."

    1 May 2013.

    Associated Press.   "High School Student Arrested on Gun Charge Will Be Able to Graduate."

    WDBJ-TV [Roanoke, VA].   3 May 2013.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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