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Classmates rally around Princeton student who left gun in car

Posted May 1, 2013
Updated May 2, 2013

— The Princeton High School community is rallying around a student who was arrested and expelled for having an unloaded shotgun in his car in the school's parking lot.

David Cole Withrow, 16, was charged Monday with bringing a weapon on educational property, which is a felony. He was expelled from school and won't be allowed to graduate with his class later this month.

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.

Community questions punishment for student who left gun in car Community questions punishment for student with gun in car

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 Wednesday. "Certain items are mandated and we have no choice but to follow the law."

Boykin said Winthow'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."


This story is closed for comments.

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  • 007_Bat May 3, 2013

    Regardless of who passed what and when, I for one (and I imagine many more sane & logical people) am getting tired of the one size fits all mentality by all government entities. We have back ourselves into gridlock as a society because of a few insane actions by by a few insane people. In instances such as these, the school officials and the police together should exercise some level common sense in handling the case.

  • Plenty Coups May 3, 2013

    Dnut-"Not according to plentycoups, supposedly the REPUBLICAN dominated General assembly just passed the 0 tolerance in fall of 2011...RIGHT..."

    They revised it and changed some of the details of the law. I've provided links to that law numerous times. The point is, is that it is law and the school administration has zero leeway. So all those posters complaining about the "school system" need to complain to the General Assembly.

  • sharone65 May 3, 2013

    People say all the time, "Honesty is the best policy" but this is a case where it is not. It is sad that a bright young man had to be humiliated and graduation taken from him because he was honest. I hate it for him but I am hoping that things will work out for him. The only thing he attempted to do was let someone know that he had made a mistake and forgot. Yea, some might say, that's no excuse, but people do wrong all the time and the punishment isn't as bad as this young man. This is very sad. Hang in there Cole.

  • kevinwickham May 2, 2013

    Just goes to show. NEVER turn yourself in expecting understanding and leniency for doing the right thing. The powers that be will throw the book at you so the best thing in this case would have been to remain silent and take the gun out when he got home. NEVER give honest answers because you will only be slapped down for your trouble.

  • Dnut May 2, 2013

    Why has everyone forgetten that it is against the law and schools to have a gun on campus? This is why I am confused. The rule have been there for a very long while. Nothing new. But all of a sudden its a love one and many are having a fit. Had it been some other student. I would have read many negatives and no positives. Trying to figure this out.
    May 2, 2013 2:14 p.m.
    >>>>Not according to plentycoups, supposedly the REPUBLICAN dominated General assembly just passed the 0 tolerance in fall of 2011...RIGHT....had it been another student with the same situation? What are you trying to say? What if it was a minority? Look, if it had been any kid with the same stellar background as this kid, I would hope that common sense would prevail.

  • jesseredfield May 2, 2013


  • jesseredfield May 2, 2013


    Funny that the assistant principle let a gun get into students hands not too long ago and only got a 3 day suspension, she belongs in jail with him.

  • alwayslovingu30 May 2, 2013

    all this gun stuff is being blown out of preportion.if its An accident I understand but on purpose.yes nail them to the wall.but why was the principal not fired for bringing guns to school period.Tracey Peedin Jones is just full of her self its ok in case of school staff no its not.its not law yet honey

  • daddybdg May 2, 2013

    "charges weren't filed when a loaded gun was found in an assistant principal's car two years ago." Check out the story! It's far more egregious than this teen's action and the school official only received a two day suspension. No charges filed? Why not? Statute of limitation by now no doubt. If not, charge her and fire her. Let the people know how serious you are in enforcing your rules.

  • Hans May 2, 2013

    "What a great lesson to teach a high school kid. If you make a "simple harmless" MISTAKE never, never, never go to a authority figure in a school they will just hammer you!" - joe26
    May 2, 2013 4:13 p.m.

    Actually, that's probably the best lesson they've learned all year. They should apply it to the "authorities" outside of school as well.