North Carolina student was planning mass shooting at university, police say

PHOTO: Paul Steber in a police booking photo. PlayHigh Point Police Department
WATCH North Carolina college student arrested for alleged school shooting plot

Police arrested a North Carolina university student who admitted to planning a mass shooting at his school, authorities said Wednesday.

Officers charged Paul Steber, a 19-year-old freshman at High Point University in North Carolina, with two felony counts of having a gun on campus and an additional count for making threats of mass violence on Tuesday after a classmate reported him, police said.

Steber allegedly had ammunition and two firearms -- a 9 mm semi-automatic pistol and a double-barrel, 12-gauge shotgun -- in his dorm room when he was arrested. Authorities said he dose not appear to have any criminal history.

PHOTO: Paul Steber in a police booking photo. High Point Police Department
Paul Steber in a police booking photo.

He had been plotting the shooting since December and had studied previous shootings, including the 2015 church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, prosecutors revealed at a court hearing Wednesday.

Steber, a Boston native, told authorities that he came to North Carolina because it was easier to gain access to guns, prosecutors said. He said he intended to carry out a shooting by Christmas.

Police did not offer specific details about his plans, but prosecutors said Steber desperately wanted to pledge a fraternity and the plot hinged on whether or not he got into one.

PHOTO: Paul Steber was in possession of two firearms, a 9mm semi-automatic pistol and a black powder/percussion double-barrel 12-gauge shotgun. High Point Police Department
Paul Steber was in possession of two firearms, a 9mm semi-automatic pistol and a black powder/percussion double-barrel 12-gauge shotgun.

Prosecutors said he purchased the firearms last weekend in North Carolina, and that he planned to kill himself and his roommate if Steber didn't get into a fraternity and the roommate did.

It's unclear if the weapons were purchased legally, but North Carolina law prohibits any person, including a concealed handgun permit holder, from carrying firearms on educational property.

The High Point Police Department praised the student who reported Steber to school administrators in a statement Wednesday.

PHOTO: Paul Steber was in possession of two firearms, a 9mm semi-automatic pistol and a black powder/percussion double-barrel 12-gauge shotgun. High Point Police Department
Paul Steber was in possession of two firearms, a 9mm semi-automatic pistol and a black powder/percussion double-barrel 12-gauge shotgun.

"This incident illustrates the importance of the public reporting suspicious activity to authorities," the statement said. "Information from the public is often the critical first step in preventing acts of mass violence."

High Point University officials issued a similar statement to students and faculty in the wake of the arrest.

"Due to the diligence of the students who reported this and the swift response of HPU security, the firearms were confiscated and the matter was turned over to the High Point Police Department," the university said in a statement. "HPU Security and HPPD appreciate that students reported finding the firearms to HPU staff. HPU encourages students to follow the rule of “If you see something, say something.”

Steber was being held on a $2 million bond as of late Wednesday.

ABC News' Darren Reynolds contributed to this report.