The father of a college student who left his Cheltenham-area home Monday morning with a gun case and possibly a gun, prompting added security at his former high school and current college, is pleading for his son to come home.
Washington College, located in Chestertown, Maryland, on the state's Eastern Shore, identified the student as sophomore Jacob Marberger. The college was closed Monday as a precaution.
Cheltenham High School did not name the student in question but said he was a graduate.
School officials said in a statement that "District representatives just learned that Washington College, in Maryland, instituted a lockdown due to a threat to their campus made by a person who is a former Cheltenham student."
The high school was not allowing anyone to enter or exit "until the lockout is officially called off," according to school statement.
Now Marberger's father is begging him to come home.
"Everyone would like to hear from him. And we want to be there for him," Jacob Marberger's father, Jon, said Monday, explaining his son has been through perhaps the most tumultuous time of his life over the last few weeks.
Jon Marberger said his son was suspended from school for a period this fall but wouldn't discuss why. He had just completed his first full week back on campus after being cleared to return by a forensic psychologist who felt Jacob Marberger was not a threat to himself or others.
"When he first got back, it was difficult because he was ashamed," Jon Marberger explained. "He was considering withdrawing, but his friends and faculty at the school encouraged him to stay."
Sunday night, though, Jacob Marberger made a tough decision. He resigned his post as speaker for the student government, which "meant a lot to him," according to his father. Jon Marberger said his son felt he'd tarnished the image of the office because of his suspension and rumors at school.
"I would just ask people not to judge until they hear the whole story," Jon Marberger said, adding he did not believe his son was a risk to anyone else and had not made any direct threats to or about anyone.
Jacob Marberger, an only child who his dad describes as tight with both parents, came home around 3 a.m. Monday while they were sleeping, took a rifle case and left in his 1997 green Range Rover. When his parents realized the gun case was missing and Jacob wasn't answering their phone calls, his dad called the college.
Washington College closed its doors Monday in response.
College spokesman Mike O'Connor confirmed no direct threats were made but said out of an abundance of caution — for Jacob Marberger's safety and for everyone else's — the school went into lockdown.
The quad area that houses three of the college's fraternities was evacuated and fraternity members were moved into the school's dining hall. Jacob is a member of one of those fraternities.
"Police are currently classifying him as a missing person," O'Connor said.
The college urged people on campus to shelter in place Monday morning and asked faculty and staff not to report to work.
Soon after, Cheltenham High School, Jacob Marberger's alma mater, implemented a "lockout" mode.
The difference between a lockdown and a lockout has to do with the type of threat. In a lockdown, the perceived threat is inside the building. With a lockout, the threat is outside.
His dad understands why the college would take precautions but when Cheltenham High School reacted in a similar fashion, he questioned whether the response was "spinning out of control."
"I mean, you know, everyone's going to have to live with this no matter what transpires," Jon Marberger said.
Jacob is fascinated with metallurgy, his dad said, and about a year ago began collecting unique guns. When he was suspended from school, his parents locked up his guns and made sure Jacob didn't have a key, Jon Marberger said. But his wife noticed a gun case that somehow didn't get locked up and had been leaning against the locker was gone this morning. "It could have been empty. We just don't know," Jon Marberger said.
"Our concern is my son's health and safety right now," Marberger said Monday. "That's paramount and I truly in my heart believe no one else is at risk."
Washington College has asked anyone who knew his whereabouts to call the college at 410-778-7810 or Chestertown Police at 410-778-7810. The school planned to resume normal operations Tuesday morning in the Dining Hall at 7:30 and most other campus functions at 8:30 a.m. The Office of Counseling was set to open at 8 a.m. for any students who need support.