Gun store owner refuses to sell weapon to man suspected of planning mass shooting

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ATHENS, Ohio -- A gun store owner is being credited with possibly stopping a mass shooting at Ohio University after he refused to sell a gun to a man who passed a background check.

James Howard passed a background check when attempting to buy a long gun on March 21, but sounded as if he might be planning to hurt himself or others, John Downs, owner of Downs Bait and Guns, told WSYX.

"I just said, you know what, bud, I have a really bad feeling about this. I just can't sell you the gun," Downs said.

The former Ohio University student and hockey player left the store angry, and later returned, according to Downs. The store owner then turned off the shop’s “open” sign, told his customers to hide, loaded three guns and called 911, he said.

Howard was later arrested at a nearby Wal-Mart while buying survival gear.

"From what I know of the circumstances, I believe he did prevent a mass shooting that was probably going to occur at (Ohio University) in Athens,” Hocking County Sheriff's Office Sheriff Lanny North said. “He had an enormous amount of ammunition he was going to purchase, shotgun shells and 22-caliber rifle ammunition.”

Ohio University police were preparing to send out a campus alert when Howard was apprehended. Howard was being held on burglary and weapons charges, and in lieu of $100,000 bail.