WASHINGTON — A 21-year-old student at the University of Maryland-College Park has been charged with threatening to shoot university police officers.
Ryan Sulkowski was arrested Sunday by the Baltimore County police at his parents’ home in Baltimore.
The University of Maryland police said they got a report that Sulkowski had said he’s applied to get guns and was waiting for the background check. The person also said Sulkowski’s parents had guns in their home. University Police Chief David Mitchell told WTOP Monday that they learned of the threats on Friday: “He was going to shoot UMPD police officers and make our children orphans.”
Sulkowski had been accused of making false statements to campus police earlier this month — sending information to tip lines that hazing was happening at fraternities on campus, Mitchell said, adding that those claims had been investigated and found false. He added that Sulkowski and police had “an incident” in front of the police station when he was informed that he was being charged with making false statements.
Sulkowski’s lawyer, Gary Bernstein, told WTOP his client was given an emergency assessment at Washington Adventist Hospital and was found not to be a danger to himself or to others.
Bernstein also said neither Sulkowski nor his parents own guns and that Sulkowski has not applied to get a weapon.
Bernstein said his client was released on his own recognizance following a court hearing Monday afternoon and is back home with his parents in Baltimore.
University spokeswoman Katie Lawson said Sulkowski is not allowed to return to any U.Md. campus.
Both Mitchell and Bernstein cited the current atmosphere surrounding guns, including the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, for various aspects of the case.
Mitchell said the police did the right thing, given “today’s environment, given that Mr. Sulkowski could … walk into a sporting-goods store and buy a shotgun, cash and carry, and walk out — no waiting period. … We take him at his word. He’s capable; he’s of age; he has the means; he apparently has the financial wherewithal. And we stopped him before he could do it.”
Bernstein claimed the order to charge Sulkowski came from above the university police. He said the campus police had already spoken with Sulkowski’s parents and determined that he was not a danger to himself or others, though he couldn’t come back to school.
“They have already verified he owns no guns. The parents own no guns,” Bernstein said, also claiming he was told by the state police that Sulkowski had never applied for a permit. He said the police told him “we’ve been overruled” by university administrators.
“In this day and age, you lock them up and then you sort it out later,” Bernstein said. “That may or may not be fair to the kid who gets locked up, but in the scheme of things, and with the tension that we’ve got with this kind of stuff, what else can we do?”
He added, “It probably had to be [done], even though I’m a criminal defense lawyer,” saying that administrators “don’t want to be portrayed like the sheriff in Broward County.”
WTOP’s Rick Massimo contributed to this report.