Local News

Classmates rally around Princeton student who left gun in car

Posted May 1, 2013 8:55 p.m. EDT
Updated May 2, 2013 4:19 p.m. EDT

— 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.

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."