A 19-year-old man in Texas who said he wanted to “shoot up” a local hotel was arrested last week, just days before gunmen carried out separate mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.
Federal agents arrested William Patrick Williams of Lubbock, which is roughly 350 miles northwest of Dallas, on Thursday and charged him with making false statements to a firearms dealer, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas announced Friday.
Lubbock police were notified on July 13 that Williams was hospitalized for psychiatric assessment after threatening to commit a mass shooting, according to a criminal complaint filed against him on July 31.
His grandmother told police that she convinced Williams to let her bring him to the hospital after he made homicidal and suicidal threats during a phone call with her, prosecutors said.
Williams told police that he had recently purchased an AK-47 and wanted to open fire on a local hotel and then be fatally shot by law enforcement officers responding to the scene, according to the complaint.
He gave police permission to search the hotel room where he was staying and told them that he had already laid out all of his weapons for law enforcement agents to confiscate, the complaint alleges.
Inside the hotel room, police reportedly found an AK-47 rifle, 17 magazines loaded with ammunition, multiple knives, a black trench coat, black tactical pants, a black t-shirt that read “Let ’Em Come,” and black tactical gloves with the fingers cut off. Officers say they also found documents inside a bag chronicling his depression disorder and anti-depression medication.
On July 22, agents with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives received the firearms transaction form that Williams completed while buying the AK-47 at a Cabela’s on July 11, according to the complaint.
Officials say Williams misrepresented his address on the form, listing his relatives’ address even though he had been evicted by his family members and was living with a roommate somewhere else, the complaint alleges.
Prosecutors have requested pretrial detention for Williams, who has been appointed a federal public defender. He is currently being held in Lubbock County Detention Center and is described as a black male.
A detention hearing has been scheduled for Wednesday.
If convicted, Williams faces up to five years in federal prison.
“This was a tragedy averted,” U.S. Attorney 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.”
It was not immediately clear whether federal agents could have arrested Williams for making threats. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas declined to comment beyond the publicly available court documents.
Two days after Williams’ arrest, a suspected gunman shot up a Walmart in El Paso, leaving at least 22 people dead and more than two dozen others injured. Less than 24 hours later, another shooter opened fire on a popular nightlife district in Dayton, killing nine people and wounding at least 27 others.
Williams wasn’t the only person arrested within the past week for allegedly threatening to commit a mass shooting.
A Pennsylvania man was arraigned Saturday on charges of making threats against Temple University. Walmart employees alerted police after Patrick J. Buhler, 29, made threatening statements while buying ammunition at a branch of the store in Tullytown on July 31, roughly 25 miles northeast of the Philadelphia university.
Buhler, described by police as a white male, told a customer at the Walmart about security at Temple University and asked questions about campus police’s response time, officials said. He also told a customer that they would see him in the news in the coming days, according to a criminal complaint filed against him.
Investigators discovered that Buhler had visited multiple local Walmart locations, where he purchased additional ammunition, knives, small-cylinder propane bottles, a two-way radio and binoculars.
Buhler told police after they tracked him down Thursday that his conversation with the Walmart customer was a mistake and that he didn’t know what he was thinking when he said it, according to the complaint.
Ryan J. Reilly contributed reporting.