As the U.S. reels from a weekend of two mass shootings, federal authorities have released details of what they say could have been another tragedy — which didn’t happen because the suspect’s grandmother managed to stop it.
On Friday, federal prosecutors in Lubbock, Texas, said that they have charged a 19-year-old man with making false statements to a federally licensed firearms dealer and that William Patrick Williams was allegedly plotting a mass shooting.
“This was a tragedy averted,” U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Erin Nealy Cox said in a statement. “I want to praise the defendant’s grandmother, who saved lives by interrupting this plot, as well as the Lubbock police officers and federal agents who investigated his unlawful acquisition of a deadly weapon.”
Williams’ attorney did not immediately respond to NPR’s request for comment.
According to the criminal complaint, Williams’ grandmother told authorities that he called her and said he was homicidal and suicidal.
He said he “planned to ‘shoot up’ a local hotel and then commit suicide by cop,” the U.S. attorney’s office said.
“The grandmother could hear Williams manipulating a firearm on the phone and was able to persuade Williams to let her pick him up” and take him to a hospital for psychiatric care, the complaint added.
Williams later told police officers that he was staying in a hotel, and according to the complaint, this is what they found when they searched it: “an AK-47 rifle, seventeen magazines loaded with 7.62 ammunition, a black trench coat, multiple knives, black tactical pants, a black t-shirt that said ‘Let ‘Em Come’, and black tactical gloves with the fingers cut off.”
When officials from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives looked into how he purchased the weapon, they found an alleged false statement in his documents. According to prosecutors, Williams did not state his accurate and current address on an ATF form.
He had been living with his aunt and uncle, though according to the complaint, his uncle told investigators that he “did not want Williams at the house alone because Williams had weapons.” However, Williams had allegedly moved yet still wrote his old address on the form.
If Williams is found guilty of “knowingly making a false statement to a Federal Firearms Licensee during the purchase of a firearm,” he could face up to five years in federal prison.
“If you suspect a friend or loved one is planning violence against themselves or others, do not hesitate to seek help immediately by calling law enforcement,” said Nealy Cox, the U.S. attorney.
As NPR’s Bill Chappell reported, there have been more than 250 mass shootings so far this year in the United States. Just this weekend, gunmen in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, shot dead 31 people.