David "Cole" Withrow is a senior at Princeton High School. He was set to graduate in just a few weeks, until his arrest Monday for bringing a gun to school.
Cole, who is an Eagle Scout and an honors student, said he forgot to take his gun out of his truck after skeet shooting. When he got to school and realized the gun was in his car, he went into school to call his mom so he could leave and take the gun home.
The school found out and Cole was arrested and expelled.
Now his classmates and members of the community are speaking out in his defense.
"He's been taught when you're in trouble, you call your parent, and that's what he did. And now he's being punished for what I consider doing the right thing," family friend Kim Boykin said.
"Free Cole" is painted on several cars of Cole's classmates. The "Free Cole" outrage is also going viral on social media.
"I do think our faculty did the right thing to protect the students, but I do think it's overdone because he was trying to take it home and do the right thing," Princeton High School student Lacynn Belk said.
Still, Johnston County Schools stand by their decision to expel Cole.
"A student brought an unloaded shotgun on campus. The shotgun was located in a locked vehicle. Administration reacted promptly and the proper procedures and protocol were followed. The law is very clear when a person knowingly and willingly brings a weapon onto educational property," Johnston County Schools spokesperson Tracey Peedin Jones said.
Some in the community wonder how a senior with just days left of school can be expelled when two years ago, the school's assistant principal accidentally brought a loaded gun to school in her car and was only suspended for three days.