Officials at Washington College knew the warning signs.
Jacob Marberger, a sophomore at the small Maryland school, had been behaving erratically. Once a leader in Greek life and student government, Marberger lost his leadership positions after allegedly bringing a gun on campus in October. When a week-and-a-half suspension sent Marberger back to his Pennsylvania home, he disappeared, taking one of his parents’ rifle cases with him.
Washington College went on a preemptive lockdown on Monday and ordered evacuations on Tuesday as the FBI became involved in the search for Marberger. The school will be closed until at least Thanksgiving, officials announced via the school’s Twitter.
The United States has averaged approximately one school shooting per week since 2013, gun safety group Everytown reports. Patterns emerge. The shooters are often male, often white, often grappling with social rejection or academic failure. Marberger fits the description. But he has not committed the crime.
Police have issued a warrant for Marberger’s arrest, although his whereabouts or intentions are unclear. His parents told police he was “despondent” about his performance at school, and did not confirm whether the gun case he removed from their home contained a gun, The Washington Post reports. He was last spotted on Monday in a Pennsylvania Walmart, inspiring reports that he might have purchased ammunition there.
“We have decided to close campus until further notice,” Washington College president Sheila Bair announced during a Tuesday press conference.
The college closed temporarily on Monday, with plans of reopening the next day. But school officials quickly changed their minds on Tuesday, citing “new information received from law enforcement at 9:15 this morning.”
Students were encouraged to evacuate campus until at least Thanksgiving. As of Tuesday afternoon, all but 59 of Washington College’s approximately 1,500 students had left the area.
Details of Marberger’s life on campus might indicate his mental state at the time of his suspension. School officials say Marberger was the subject of a prank, leading him to believe he was being bullied.
“Someone had placed a trash-can full of water against his dorm room door, so when he opened the door, the water came into his room,” Washington College public safety director Jerry Roderick said during a Tuesday press conference. “He felt very hurt by that and he saw this as somebody reaching out to ridicule him in some way. In speaking with Jacob, he did feel persecuted by several students on campus.”
Marberger was also a gun enthusiast, attending a college exhibit on guns and collecting antique firearms. Two days after the prank in his dorm, Marberger brandished one of his antique rifles on campus, possibly while intoxicated. College president Sheila Bair said the gun was unloaded.
While Marberger remains at large and Washington College stays closed, friends have attempted to reach him using the Twitter hashtag #JacobMarberger. The messages are pleas for peace, asking Marberger to avoid the too-familiar narrative of school shootings.
“#jacobmarberger You’re a good man with a bright future,” one person tweeted. “Come in from the cold. Say yes to life. I believe in you.”