Police arrested a Northeastern Technical College student last week after they say a handgun was found in his backpack at the school’s Cheraw campus.
Joshua Easterling, 19, of 131 Evergreen Court, Bennettsville was taken into custody by Cheraw police officers on Oct. 12. Authorities said college administrators were informed that he had a gun on campus.
Police Chief Keith Thomas said his department received a call around 1:40 p.m. Oct. 12. When officers arrived, a security guard at the school had Easterling in one of the front offices, separated from the other students.
After learning about the weapon, the guard waited outside of the classroom Easterling was in. As students were exiting the class the security guard made the decision to detain him prior to officers’ arrival, police said. He also took possession of the backpack in which the weapon, a revolver, was found.
“That was a good idea to make sure no one was in danger,” said Thomas.
Police say a bag of marijuana was also found on Easterling during a search.
Cheraw police officers interviewed Easterling, who Thomas said told them he forgot the pistol was in his backpack and realized it once he got to school.
“His words were “I forgot. I didn’t drive and didn’t have nowhere to put the weapon,” said Thomas.
Witnesses said Easterling showed the weapon to other students in one of his classes, according to police. Those students notified NETC administration and security.
Thomas said Easterling’s story was not accurate or consistent with witnesses’ statements. Although the weapon was not loaded and no ammunition was found, it is still illegal to possess a firearm on school property.
Easterling was charged with one count of felony possession of a firearm on school grounds and one count of simple possession of marijuana. He was released on bond following a bond hearing the same day of his arrest.
All defendants facing criminal charges are presumed innocent until and unless found guilty in court.
Northeastern Technical College President Ron Bartley initially notified the public about the incident on Wednesday, Oct. 14. He said no one was in danger at any time and that Easterling has been removed from the campus on a interim basis but can appeal that decision.
Thomas said he was very satisfied with the way things were handled by the school.
“He did exactly what he should have done,” Thomas said of the security guard. “They did exactly what they were supposed to do. They did everything right.”
Reach Maria D. Grandy at 843-537-5261.