Police: UCF student bought powerful rifles, 'displayed disturbing behavior'

Authorities possibly prevented 'another school tragedy,' Homeland Security says

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ORLANDO, Fla. – A University of Central Florida student who acquired military-style rifles and "displayed disturbing behavior," including spending $70,000 in cash, will soon be deported, according to campus police.

UCF Police Chief Richard Beary said they received a tip on Feb. 1 about Wenliang Sun, 26, who is an nonimmigrant F-1 international student from China. University staff members said Sun's appearance and behavior had changed dramatically and he had previously disclosed that he owned a high-powered firearm, according to a news release.

"Not coming out of his room, the hair color, the weight he put on, not conversing with people. It was all of those little changes that by themselves don't mean much, but added to all the other things that were going on in his life, they were big red flags once we found out about them," Beary said. 

Friends and roommates told authorities that Sun had recently bought a $70,000 car in cash out of the blue.

Police said they spoke to Sun on Feb. 2 and he told them that he owned an LWRC 300 Blackout rifle and ammunition that he kept in a public storage facility since firearms are not allowed in his off-campus apartment. Sun was unwilling to give the gun to authorities for safekeeping, officials said.

On Feb. 7, Sun bought a .308-caliber Ruger Precision rifle that he added a scope and bipod to, as well as ammunition for the gun, according to the news release.

"We know in today's world, a person in distress that owns a high powered firearm, we cannot just ignore that," Beary said. "We have a duty and obligation to make sure that our people are safe."                     

UCF police said they were alarmed by Sun's purchase and had already notified the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations about Sun's behavior.

Both firearms were purchased legally because federal law allows for those holding nonimmigrant visas to purchase a firearm as long as they possess a hunting license, which Sun does, officials said.

After the purchase of the second firearm, Sun's nonimmigrant status was terminated because he had not been attended classes, which he was required to do as an F-1 international student.

Officials from HSI and ATF took Sun into custody on Feb. 7 in connection with violations of his terms of admission into the country and potential firearm violations, a news release said.

Beary said at the time, UCF police officers were not able to take Sun's guns away because the incident happened before Gov. Rick Scott signed the Risk Protection Order, which allows law enforcement to confiscate firearms from people taken into custody under the Baker Act.

"That protection order wasn't law yet. We did not have that capability. That's why our federal partners came to our aid because we didn't have the lawful authority to do that," Beary said. "Now thank goodness we can do something in these cases, but on Feb. 7, we did not have that authority."                 

An immigration judge ordered on March 21 that Sun be sent back to China for his failure to comply with the terms of his nonimmigrant status.

Beary said he believes they prevented a tragedy.

"In my mind, something very bad was going to happen somewhere in Central Florida," he said. "I think a disaster was about to happen and we stopped it."

ATF Special Agent in Charge Daryl McCrary said this case illustrates the importance of "See Something, Say Something."

 “With partnerships between the community and law enforcement, sharing a common concern for the communities we live in, we can reduce violent crime, mitigate dangerous situations, and save lives,” McCrary said.

HSI Tampa Special Agent in Charge James C. Spero agreed.

“This is a case where successful communication at every level of law enforcement may have prevented another school tragedy,” Spero said.

In 2013, UCF student James Seevakumaran killed himself after an unsuccessful attempt at a mass shooting on campus. Officials said Seevakumaran had guns and ammunition in his third-floor dorm room then pulled the fire alarm to get students out of their dorms.

He turned the gun on himself after his roommate called 911, authorities said.

"The first test for all of us is whether we are focused on the safety of our community, and I am confident that UCF has passed that test. The safety and welfare of our students, faculty and staff, visitors, and neighbors is UCF's highest priority. The test of compassion is also very important, and our prayers go to everyone affected by today's incident," UCF President John C. Hitt said at the time.

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