A combat veteran who was kicked out of school for storing a gun in his dorm room has broken his silence.
In an exclusive interview, the former senior told his side of the story.
During the half hour interview, which was granted under the condition of anonymity, the student admitted guilt.
“I was in the wrong and the school had every right to expel me,” he said, while quickly adding that the gun was legally registered.
He further explained that this incident resulted from ongoing family conflict that left him kicked out of the family home this summer.
Left with no place to store his firearms, the 29-year-old said he was forced to sell two rifles and a handgun, but decided to keep one limited-edition Colt .45 in his Austin Hall room temporarily.
Knowing he could not have weapons on campus, the student expressed intentions of bringing the gun to his cousin’s house within the next week.
But before he could relocate the weapon, UT security officers and TPD converged on his room.
They were acting on an anonymous tip that the former Marine thinks came from the only student he showed his gun.
A Military Man
Last week, officers found the Colt .45 and many knives in the man’s Austin Hall room. The former student was summarily suspended from classes after the discovery.
The 29-year-old has a connection with weaponry, being a former ROTC student.
“As a part of our training and leader development, we do emphasize familiarity with Army weapons,” said Patrick O’Sullivan, Professor of Military Science at UT.
The transfer student was enrolled in ROTC during summer 2006. He was properly screened to make sure he was adequate material for the Army. His cadet status was stripped from him in April 2007 because of a medical condition.
“I think [he] took his disenrollment in stride. Given that it was a medical diagnosis, I believe he was more concerned with his health than anything,” O’Sullivan said.
Weapons are banned from UT; therefore, ROTC follows this guideline strictly.
“UT Army ROTC cadets are UT students, so all UT policies apply to them. If students/cadets violate UT policy, then yes they can suffer all the usual possible consequences like any student,” O’Sullivan added.
The student spoke of a shaky history with his family. After graduation from high school, he joined the Marines for seven years. Although his parents encouraged him to join the Army, he said they did not approve of his enlistment with the Marines.
“Everything that led up to this incident stems from my family,” he said.
As a sergeant, he said that he worked with nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, detecting and neutralizing them.
He told Minaret reporters of his first six months of the Second Gulf War in Kuwait and then working his way past Baghdad. He also said that he spent over two years in Japan and was stationed at bases in North Carolina and California.
The student said that after being honorably discharged from the marines, he decided to try and enter the CIA, FBI and police forces. He said that his parents did not feel he was adequate to enter such fields, so he decided to receive his degree in Government and World Affairs at UT. He said that he went against his parents’ wishes and entered the ROTC program
UT After War
When asked about the impact of war he stated, “It made me open my eyes a little bit more and made me look around more.” He declined to comment on his experiences with combat in Iraq.
During the first six months back, he experienced nightmares about the war, but the dreams have since subsided.
While in the ROTC program freshman year, the student felt his attitude change about UT. After dealing with noisy roommates along with waking early in the morning for PT practice, he said he was moved to a new room.
Being sleep deprived, he said, “I had never felt that bad except when I was in Iraq.” He spoke of feeling punished after being moved to a new room by Residence Life. He recalled former neighbors causing the noise saying he needed psychological help because of the impact of war.
“If I had really been psycho, those people who caused all of the noise, I wouldn’t have killed them, but they would have been in the hospital,” he said.
His disgust about the room change left him bitter towards the University.
“From that point forward, I cared less about whether or not getting my degree at the University of Tampa.”
The student said that he started purchasing guns, all of which were and are registered to him, for self-defense reasons.
“Its like that old saying, ‘I’d rather have it and not need it, than need it and not have it,'” he said. He claimed that the gun never left his dorm room.
He said that he showed one student his gun possession on campus after she asked him for advice on purchasing a concealed weapon for herself.
A few days later, upon entering his Austin hall room, he saw his door was cracked open and looked inside to find security searching his belongings.
“When I opened the door and saw security, I was speechless,” he said. After Safety and Security escorted him off campus, the investigation has ended and the former Marine said he is effectively expelled from UT. He said he has no prior arrests.
Currently, the student said he is talking with Marine Corps recruiters for re-entry in either infantry or explosive ordinance disposal. Confident he’ll receive approval from doctors, he is set to sign for at least four years of service. The senior also plans to finish his Bachelor degree during his military service.