A North Carolina Eagle Scout who was expelled and arrested for accidentally leaving a shotgun in his pickup truck in the school parking lot has been offered a scholarship to attend Liberty University.
Cole Withrow was just a few weeks from graduating with honors from Princeton High School when he was arrested on Monday and slapped with a felony weapons charge. Withrow had been skeet shooting with friends a day before and had only noticed he had left his shotgun in his truck as he reached to grab his book bag.
When he realized his mistake, he went to the front office and called his mother. An administrator overheard the conversation and called police.
Withrow’s story has generated national attention. Hundreds of people have joined a Facebook community to show their support. And many local parents are upset over what many believe is a case of a young man getting severely punished for trying to do the right thing.
“You teach your kids if you’re in trouble or if you see you’ve done something wrong, go ahead and admit it,” family friend Kimberly Boykin said. “Be a man and it’ll be fixed. In this case, that’s what he did and he’s being punished for it. That’s not the lesson we need to teach our kids.”
Jerry Falwell, Jr., the chancellor of Liberty University, had been traveling through North Carolina and saw a local television news account of Withrow’s ordeal. He also noticed that the 18-year-old was wearing a “Liberty University” t-shirt.
Falwell told Fox News that he made a few calls and discovered that Withrow’s sister is a Liberty graduate.
“I was really impressed with what a meek and humble Christian kid he is,” Falwell said. “I thought he would be a perfect fit at Liberty.”
So the chancellor made the 18-year-old an offer he couldn’t refuse.
“I told him that we would give him whatever scholarships he needed to attend Liberty University,” he said.
Falwell said the university is willing to do whatever it takes to make sure the teenager gets a college education.
“The anti-gun zealots seem to be vilifying him for making an honest mistake,” he told Fox News. “We want to reward him for trying to do the right thing.”
And that means even helping the young man finish his last few weeks of high school. Falwell said they offered to let him finish his high school work through their online academy.
Liberty University, located in Lynchburg, Va., is the world’s largest Christian university with nearly 100,000 students. The chancellor said he’s been flooded with messages of support for Withrow from the Liberty community.
“It’s something our whole university feels good about,” he said.
For now Withrow, who had a spotless record, faces a precarious future. It’s unclear at this point how the pending criminal charges will be worked out.
Falwell called the boy’s predicament “disturbing and unsettling.”
“When you see a basketball player who is glorified for announcing that he’s gay and then you see an honest young man like Cole arrested and treated like a criminal for making an honest mistake – you wonder what’s happening to our country,” he said. “The culture seems to be completely disconnected from our roots – our Christian heritage and our Constitution. I hope the American people wake up before it’s too late.”