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ABINGTON TOWNSHIP, Pa. (CBS) — Police in Abington Township say the man seen walking around with an AR-15 will not be charged and he won’t be getting his weapon back—for now.
“We are confident that this weapon should not be, and will not be, returned at this time. Further, under the Mental Health Procedures Act and the Uniform Firearms Act, an individual who has been certified as requiring inpatient care may not possess or purchase firearms,” said Chief Patrick Molloy with the Abington Township Police Department.
Molloy says the decision was made after consulting with the district attorney’s office and the FBI.
The man, who police are not identifying, was seen several times walking around the community with his AR-15 last week. Police say he was exercising his Second Amendment right.
Molloy says while officers initially did not perceive the man as a threat, three friends later came forward with credible information that he may harm himself or others.
Search warrants obtained by Eyewitness News show the man told friends in June 2017 that he wanted to shoot up Abington High School then made similar comments about Penn State Abington in January. Friends also told police he often sent suicidal messages.
The affidavit also showed searches on the man’s cellphone, including “what guns were used in mass shootings,” “sandyhook,” and “how many mass shooters have fatherless homes” [sic].
The man does not live with his father, police say.
Authorities recovered the gun and two fully loaded magazines from the man’s home.
The investigation ultimately led police to admit the man into a mental health facility involuntarily.
A hearing will determine if and when the man will be released.
Molloy released this statement on the matter:
“Section 303 of the Mental Health Procedures Act provides for a hearing to determine if an involuntary commitment, for up to an additional twenty days, is appropriate. The procedures for the entire process may be found in the Act. While the Police Department provides information for consideration, the decision regarding additional involuntary commitment rests solely with the hearing officer, not the police. We respect and appreciate the difficult decision that has to be made, as this Department was faced with a similar balancing of the safety of the public, with the rights of the individual. It is hoped that this young man receives any treatment he needs, now, and follows up on recommendations for treatment and/or counseling, if any, when he is released.”
Because Pennsylvania is an open carry state and the man didn’t go on private property, police say he wasn’t breaking any laws.
“Open Carry” is the law of the Commonwealth, and we will continue to respect the law and the constitutional rights of all of our citizens. We cannot, and will not, take citizens into custody merely for exercising their constitutional right to bear arms. We have no desire to do so, no right to do so, and we did not do so, here,” said Molloy.
The chief adds that when a “young man is troubled or in need of assistance, we cannot, and will not sit idly by.”