HIGH POINT — A former High Point University student accused of plotting to shoot up the school is being involuntarily committed to Central Regional Hospital after a mental health evaluation.
Paul Arnold Steber, 19, of Boston, is charged with communicating threats and two counts of having a gun on an educational property.
Guilford County District Court Judge Marcus Shields reduced Steber's bail Monday from $2 million secured to $250,000 secured.
But first he must serve his involuntary commitment to the state-run psychiatric hospital in Butner, Shields ruled.
Shields told Steber during his first appearance Monday that a forensic evaluation concluded that Steber did not have the mental capacity to go forward with court proceedings. The evaluation said he likely did not have the mental capability to even follow through with his plans for the school.
"Hopefully they will have the ability to restore you or determine whether you'll ever have the capacity to proceed," Shields said.
Prosecutor Lori Wickline repeated to Shields facts about Steber's case that raised concerns for her.
Wickline said Steber had a plan for a mass shooting that he had researched for months. That research included watching videos of mass shootings online.
"He told police he would not be an outcast anymore and, if he was not accepted into a fraternity but his roommate was, then he would kill his roommate and then himself," Wickline said. "He said he came to North Carolina because it is easier to get guns here."
Wickline said she was concerned about Steber's international connections, including his family members born internationally, his parents owning a house in Canada and his sister studying abroad.
She also expressed concerns that Steber did not seem to understand that he was no longer a High Point University student and banned from the school campus. She said his roommate's name had purposefully been withheld for his safety and privacy, but that that roommate's family is worried about their son.
Shields said that, if Steber makes bail, he cannot visit any school, he is required to surrender his passport card and passport and he is not allowed to use the internet. A passport card can be used at land border crossings and sea ports-of-entry from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda, and for domestic air travel.
"This is a very concerning case given what we know so far and it is still an active investigation," Wickline said.
Steber's attorney John Bryson told Shields he felt that Steber's jail time had become punitive, despite his charges being low-level offenses, because of the high publicity.
He asked Shields to release his client to his parents. His mother, Jennifer Steber, was in the courtroom watching her son on a television feed broadcasting from the jail.
"We have people here trying to do what is best for their son who obviously has issues," Bryson said. "He came here for college and got off track."