cole

Cole Withrow was just a few weeks from graduating with honors at North Carolina’s Princeton High School. But on Monday, the Eagle Scout and active church member was expelled and arrested after he accidentally left a shotgun in his pickup truck.

The 18-year-old is now facing a felony weapons charge and a precarious future for what most people in the community believe was an honest-to-goodness mistake. “I think it’s an injustice for this young man,” family friend Kimberly Boykin said. “He’s a good guy. He’s loved by his classmates and his teachers. You don’t become an Eagle Scout by being a bad seed.”

She said the school district is sending a very bad message to students. “You teach your kids if you’re in trouble or if you see you’ve done something wrong, go ahead and admit it,” she 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.”

Withrow had spent the weekend camping with a group of his friends, including Boykin’s son. The boys went fishing for catfish on Saturday and skeet shooting on Sunday.

He realized he had left his shotgun in his truck on Monday morning as he reached to grab his book bag, said Boykin.