Student faces charges after hunting rifle found in his vehicle

Haley Hinds reports

- A Plant High School student faces charges for bringing a firearm on campus after police -- investigating an unrelated "vague" threat -- found hunting weapons in his vehicle.

The South Tampa school was put into a modified lockdown Wednesday morning while police investigated a possible threat.

During that time, a student arrived for school, but could not get inside because of the lockdown. Officers approached the student, who was waiting in his vehicle, and discovered a shotgun, ammunition and a knife.

"Part of those protocols is to look through any of the open spaces on our campus," said Hillsborough schools spokesperson Tanya Arja. "They walked the parking lot as well."

The school was later taken off lockdown after nothing else suspicious was found.

Stratton Patterson, though, was charged with two counts of possession of a firearm on school property. His attorney admitted the 18-year-old made a mistake.

"He is, in fact, a hunter and it was an honest mistake. He simply forgot to remove the weapon after returning from a prior hunting excursion," a statement from Barry Taracks said.  "He is a great kid with no prior criminal history and is shocked to find himself in such a predicament."

His classmates seemed to agree.

"He was in the wrong place at the wrong time and he had forgotten to remove it," said Zoe Solar.

Fellow students aware of the arrest also understood that Patterson has a passion for hunting.

"He was a part of the hunting club," student Alexia Solar said. "I don't think he meant for any of that to happen. It's just, there's a policy of no guns at school, but he's a good kid."

Though they are aware of the school's strict policy for weapons, some students are sympathetic to his situation.

"Honestly, no, I don't think he's deserving of that," Solar said of the arrest. "He's a good student, he has good grades, he's probably planning on going to college and that's going to look bad on his record. It was just the wrong timing."

"Our school has a zero-tolerance policy, so you can get in trouble for bringing water guns to school, or something like that," student Carson Flowers said. "I imagine how much trouble you would get into for bringing a rifle or actual gun, even if you had no intent to use it."

The Hillsborough County School District has not yet said what type of discipline Patterson will face on their end.

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