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Press Release

Former Student Sentenced For Making False 911 Call Concerning Alleged Gunman At UVa-Wise

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Virginia
January 23, 2013, Phone Call Led To Campus Lock Down

ABINGDON, VIRGINIA – Bryant Alexander Hairston, 20, of Martinsville, Virginia, was sentenced today, in the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia, in Abingdon, to the five days of jail time already served and supervised release for a term of two years for his conviction 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. United States District Judge James P. Jones also ordered that Hairston make restitution in the amount of $4,010.00 to reimburse the various law enforcement and counseling agencies for their costs in responding to the 911 call and dealing with traumatized students.

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 residence halls. 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 residence hall 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 man having a gun 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. 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.”

The government’s investigation uncovered evidence that another resident of Hairston’s residence hall was at the door on the evening of January 23, wearing a ski mask because of the cold weather, and had asked Hairston to let him in. Hairston did not open the door and raced upstairs. At today’s sentencing hearing, Hairston testified 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 repeated the lie to the 911 operator and various responding law enforcement officers. Hairston admitted he never saw a gun. At today’s hearing, Hairston expressed remorse for his conduct, stating “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.”

Hairston previously pled guilty to these charges on May 31, 2013, pursuant to a plea agreement. Pursuant to the plea agreement, the government agreed to recommend the sentence that the Court imposed today.

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 prosecuted the case for the United States.

Updated April 14, 2015