Poweshiek County Attorney Rebecca Petig ’97 has dropped the charge against Grinnell College student Ben Shirar for possessing guns on school grounds because the relevant law only applies to K-12 schools. The possession still violated College policy, but according to Shirar, he will be able to re-enroll at the College in Spring 2014.
Shirar had been facing the class D felony charge of carrying weapons on school grounds after being arrested Feb. 28 with four handguns in his room in Main Hall.
“We did not have probable cause to move forward with the charge,” Petig said.
Petig never met with Shirar, but based her decision on information from the investigation and law enforcement reports.
Shirar did receive a fine for the charge of possession of drug paraphernalia.
According to the Student Handbook, “Conduct that endangers the safety of the residential community is prohibited. For this reason, no resident shall have in his/her/hir possession any weapons or firearms.”
However, Shirar said he will be allowed to re-enroll at Grinnell in Spring 2014. Dean of Students Travis Greene declined to comment on the situation.
Shirar said he understands the College is in a difficult position with regards to letting him re-enroll. He wrote in an email that he has not felt a negative reaction from campus with regards to his arrest.
“On the one hand, they’re more interested in using this as a learning experience, in letting you take something good out of it and get back to finishing your diploma,” he wrote. “On the other hand, though, there’s a sense that they can’t be too lenient.”
Shirar said that he is grateful that Grinnell has been so understanding.
“The fact that they’re willing to give me the chance to re-enroll is a very generous gesture on their part—they’re putting a lot of trust in me, and it’s my responsibility to show that their trust isn’t misplaced,” he wrote.