PSU student arrested after weapons found

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

PITTSBURG -- Pittsburg State University officials said Tuesday that students who shared their concerns about another student in their residence hall on Monday allowed them to move swiftly to prevent a possibly dangerous situation.

In the early morning hours, members of the University Police assisted by the Pittsburg Police Department executed a search warrant for the car and room of Nathan L. Backs, a Leavenworth freshman. Officers found a shotgun, ammunition and knives in the car, and numerous knives were found in the room.

Shortly after 8 a.m., Pittsburg Police arrested Backs on suspicion of criminal threat. Police transported him to the Crawford County Jail, where he is currently in custody as of Wednesday morning on $3,000 bond.

In a Wednesday morning telephone interview, a spokeswoman with the Crawford County Attorney's Office said that no formal charges have been filed against Backs. However, charges could be pending, but she didn't know when.

Associate Vice President for Campus Life Steve Erwin praised the students who reported their concerns and university staff for their quick response.                                                                                                                            

"This is the way it should work," Erwin said. "These students heard some things that disturbed them and some things they perceived as threatening. Instead of ignoring the behavior, they reported their worries to their residence hall adviser. That person investigated and then brought the issue to his area coordinator who reported the situation to the University Police. Because of these actions, we were able to diffuse a potential crisis."

Erwin said the university works hard to maintain a safe learning environment for students, faculty and staff.

"We take the issue of campus safety very seriously," Erwin said. "Tragedies on other campuses have demonstrated that time is a luxury we may not have when someone first notices dangerous behavior or statements."

Erwin said Backs has a right to a discipline hearing, but until he invokes that right, he has been temporarily suspended from the university. The university also plans to remove him from the residence hall.

Among the prohibited actions listed in the university's Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities is the "Possession and/or use of firearms, fireworks, dangerous weapons and hazardous chemicals." 

The code gives the associate vice president for campus life the authority to impose a summary suspension "when there is reason to believe, based on available facts, that the student represents an immediate threat to the safety, health, or welfare of herself/himself, other persons, or property."

The policy states that any PSU student who is summarily suspended and returns to campus may be treated as a trespasser.