LOGAN, Ohio — A gun store owner may have prevented a mass shooting at Ohio University last Monday.
John Downs knows most of his customers who come in to his bait and gun store in Logan. But Downs said even though James Howard passed a background check, he refused to let the guy purchase a long gun. Downs said Howard sounded like he was gearing up to harm himself and possibly others.
“I just said, ‘You know what bud, I have a really bad feeling about this, I just can’t sell you the gun,'” Downs, owner of Downs Bait and Guns, recalled.
Downs said Howard was angry when he left the store.
The former hockey player who lived in Athens, where Ohio University is located, returned an hour or so later.
Downs said he turned off the open sign, locked the door, called 911 and hid his customers in the back room.
“We loaded three guns up, and hopefully he didn’t try to come through the door, thank you Lord,” Downs said.
Deputies said they arrested Howard at a nearby Walmart where as he was buying survival gear.
“He had a enormous amount of ammunition he was going to purchase, shotgun shells and 22-caliber rifle ammunition,” Hocking County Sheriff Lanny North said.
The sheriff said students’ and staff members’ lives may have been at risk since Howard already had purchased a gun at an Athens store.
“From what I know of the circumstances, I believe he did prevent a mass shooting that was probably going to occur at OU in Athens,” North said.
Fellow workers, customers and law enforcement are applauding Downs for his courage and quick thinking.
“You know everybody wants more background checks, that is not what we really need to do, we need to enforce the law we already have on,” said Charlie Hopkins, who also works at Downs Bait And Guns.
The Ohio University police chief said they were working on a campus alert Monday when they learned he had been captured.
Howard is being held on $100,000 bail on burglary and weapons charges.