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Local man sentenced in false report on college campus
Bryant Alexander Hairston
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
By FROM BULLETIN STAFF REPORTS -
A Martinsville man was sentenced in federal court Monday in connection with a false report filed in January concerning a gunman on the campus of the University of Virginia’s College at Wise.
Bryant Alexander Hairston, 20, of Martinsville, was sentenced Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia in Abingdon to the five days of jail time already served and two years supervised release, according to a news release from the FBI’s Richmond Office.
U.S. District Judge James P. Jones also ordered that Hairston make $4,010 in restitution to various law enforcement and counseling agencies for their costs in responding to the 911 call and dealing with traumatized students.
Hairston was convicted of one count of making false statements in a matter within the jurisdiction of the Executive Branch of the United States and one count of making false statements under oath.
Hairston told a 911 dispatcher on Jan. 23 that a gunman on the campus of the U.Va.-Wise campus was trying to get into one of the residence halls, according to the release. Hairston told the dispatcher that the man had a pistol.
The campus was placed on lockdown, and law enforcement officers from various agencies responded to the scene. Armed officers went door to door through the residence hall searching for the alleged gunman.
While the search was being conducted, Hairston made statements indicating he was happy that he had saved the lives of his fellow students, the release stated. Officers became suspicious of Hairston and questioned him, it added.
After some time, Hairston admitted he had made up the story about a man having a gun because he wanted to look like a hero, according to the release.
“When Mr. Hairston falsely claimed to have seen a gunman on the campus of U.Va.-Wise, he instigated an immediate emergency response and caused significant stress among his fellow students and their families,” U.S. Attorney Timothy J. Heaphy said Monday according to the release.
“Upon hearing of his despicable lie, students barricaded themselves in rooms, and parents worried their children would become victims of another mass shooting. Hairston created a highly charged and dangerous situation for law enforcement and others. His false report reignited the fear that lingers in our district, which has experienced the awful reality of campus violence in our recent past,” Heaphy added in the release.
Heaphy said his office wants to hold accountable people who make false reports to law enforcement.
“An act like this, which in years past may have been viewed as a harmless hoax, is now extremely serious and warrants a felony conviction,” he stated in the release.
The government’s investigation found evidence that another resident of Hairston’s residence hall was at the door on the evening of Jan. 23, wearing a ski mask because of the cold weather, and had asked Hairston to let him in, according to the release. Hairston did not open the door and raced upstairs, it added.
Hairston testified Monday that after running upstairs, he falsely told a fellow student that a man with a gun was trying to get into the building, and then he repeated the lie to the 911 operator and various responding law enforcement officers, according to the release. Hairston admitted he never saw a gun, it added.
On Monday, Hairston expressed remorse for his conduct.
“I know it was wrong to say that there was a gun when there was not, and I am very sorry I scared so many people at my college and caused so much trouble for the police,” he said, according to the release.
Hairston pleaded guilty to the charge on May 31 in a plea agreement.
Police departments of U.Va.-Wise, Pound and Wise; the Wise County Sheriff’s Office; the Virginia State Police; and the Bristol Resident Agency of the Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted the investigation.