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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Virginia

Friday, May 31, 2013

Former Student Pleads Guilty To Making False 911 Call Concerning Alleged Gunman At UVA-WiseJanuary 23, 2013, Phone Call Led To Campus Lock Down

ABINGDON, VIRGINIA – Bryant Alexander Hairston, 20, of Martinsville, Virginia, pled guilty today, in the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia, in Abingdon, to 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.

On January 23, 2013, Hairston told a 911 dispatcher there was a gunman on the campus of the University of Virginia’s College at Wise (“UVa-Wise”) who was trying to get into one of the dormitories. Hairston told the dispatcher that the man had a pistol. The campus was placed on lock down and law enforcement officers from various agencies responded to the scene. Armed officers went door to door through the dormitory searching for the alleged gunman. While the search was ongoing, Hairston made statements indicating he was happy that he had saved the lives of his fellow students. Officers became suspicious of Hairston and questioned him. After some time, Hairston admitted he had made up the story about a gunman because he wanted to look like a hero.

“When Mr. Hairston falsely claimed to have seen a gunman on the campus of UVa-Wise, he instigated an immediate emergency response and caused significant stress among his fellow students and their families,” United States Attorney Timothy J. Heaphy said today. “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. Our aggressive pursuit of this case demonstrates our desire to hold accountable those who make false reports to law enforcement."

United States District Judge James P. Jones scheduled the sentencing hearing for September 9, 2013, at the Federal Courthouse in Abingdon. As part of the plea agreement reached in the case, Hairston will make restitution of over $4,000.00 (four thousand dollars) to reimburse the various law enforcement and counseling agencies for their costs in responding to the 911 call and dealing with traumatized students.

The investigation of the case was conducted by the police departments of UVa-Wise, Pound, and Wise; the Wise County Sheriff’s Office; the Virginia State Police; and the Bristol Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant United States Attorney Randy Ramseyer is prosecuting the case for the United States.

Updated April 14, 2015