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BREAKING NEWS: UVa-Wise sophomore arrested by FBI on federal charges in gunman hoax

24 Jan , 2013  

Updated: 1/28/13 12:40 p.m.

Bryant Hairston

Bryant A. Hairston, 20, is charged with making a false report to law enforcement.

Federal officials today arrested the student charged with phoning in a fake report of a gunman on the UVa-Wise campus last week.

Bryant Alexander Hairston, 20, was transferred into the FBI’s custody after a hearing in Wise County General District Court this morning, said Wise County Commonwealth’s Attorney Ron Elkins.

FBI agents charged Hairston with “knowingly making materially false, fictitious and fraudulent statements and representations,” according to a criminal complaint filed Friday in U.S. District Court.

Having just been served a warrant earlier on Jan. 23 on an unrelated assault and battery charge, police allege Hairston phoned in the hoax “to obtain some form of hero status … to prove that the earlier warrant was not accurate about his character,” according to the court documents.

A heavily-armed police officer stands guard outside Culbertson Hall on the UVa-Wise campus Wednesday night. Photo by Jordan Fifer | The Highland Cavalier

A heavily-armed police officer stands guard outside Culbertson Hall on the UVa-Wise campus Wednesday night. Photo by Jordan Fifer | The Highland Cavalier

Under questioning that night, Hairston admitted to UVa-Wise campus police Officer Kevin Yates that “his way of showing people that he was a good person and not capable of this assault was to phone in this incident and look as if he was saving lives,” FBI Special Agent Timothy Burke wrote in an affidavit filed in federal court.

Burke wrote that Hairston phoned 911 before 9 p.m. on Jan. 23, saying there was a man with a gun wearing a facemask and a grey sweat suit.

“I need some assistance,” Hairston told the 911 operator, according to Burke’s affidavit. “When I was going up the stairs I saw him … I’m Bryant Hairston.”

As police officers from multiple agencies swarmed UVa-Wise with tactical weapons drawn and the campus was locked down, Burke said Hairston was being interviewed by officers and an agent from the Virginia State Police.

Several times and to several different officials, Burke writes, Hairston asked if the incident might make the news.

One Wise Police Department officer said Hairston asked, “Is this going to be on the news? I saved a lot of lives, you know?”

Hairston asked the same question of a Virginia State Police trooper, Burke wrote.

“I sure am glad I was able to save all these students,” Hairston reportedly told the trooper.

Burke wrote in court documents that he was contacted by local and state law enforcement officers who asked for the FBI’s assistance. The FBI has jurisdiction in such a case because the alleged hoax took place at a public college.

If convicted of the new federal charge, Hairston could be fined or face up to five years in prison.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Randy Ramseyer was not immediately available for comment. Defense attorney Anthony Collins, listed in court records as Hairston’s lawyer, could not immediately be reached.

This is a breaking news update. Read more in Wednesday’s issue of The Highland Cavalier.


Updated: 1/24/13 5:20 p.m.

The UVa-Wise psychology sophomore who police say phoned 911 with fake details about a gunman on campus did so to better his standing in a sexually-motivated assault case in which he’s also accused, court records show.

Bryant Alexander Hairston, 20, of Martinsville, told officers he planned the hoax about a man in a ski mask with a pistol in Culbertson Hall “to show that he was not a bad person and was not guilty of the charges he was served on earlier,” UVa-Wise campus police Officer Kevin Yates wrote in a criminal complaint filed in Wise County General District Court.

According to Yates’ report in the court documents, Hairston had been served with the criminal summons for assault and battery earlier Wednesday and “fabricated this incident” so he could later show in court that he was a good person for calling in the gunman.

Hairston had been accused by another UVa-Wise student of assaulting her in her Culbertson Hall bedroom on Jan. 19, court records show. The 18-year-old woman later swore out a criminal complaint for a misdemeanor assault and battery arrest warrant.

The woman said that Hairston entered her room around 9:30 p.m on Jan. 19. She said she recognized him from a few days before but didn’t know his name.

“He asked if he could lay with me and I said no,” the woman wrote, saying she had a boyfriend. She said Hairston threw her against a wall, told her “not to tell him what to do,” and then asked if she had any condoms.

The woman then reported the incident to her resident adviser and to campus police before swearing out the warrant in front of a magistrate.

The Highland Cavalier generally does not name reported victims of sexually-motivated crimes.

Hairston was charged by campus police early Thursday with making a false report to law enforcement. Court records show he is being represented by defense attorney Anthony Collins, who could not immediately be reached.


Updated: 1/24/13 11:55 a.m.

A UVa-Wise sophomore has been arrested in Wednesday night’s apparent gunman prank.

Bryant Alexander Hairston, 20, of Martinsville, is charged by campus police with making a false report to law enforcement, according to online court records.

Hairston is listed as a sophomore psychology major. He remained in custody Thursday morning at the Southwest Virginia Regional Jail in Duffield, court records show.

College spokeswoman Kathy Still said Hairston is not allowed on campus pending the outcome of his charges.


Posted: 1/23/13 11:32 p.m.

Reports of a gunman on campus brought heavily armed police officers to UVa-Wise Wednesday night before officials determined the claims were an apparent hoax prompted by a student’s 911 call.

The campus was locked down and students were ordered to “hunker down” for nearly two hours as officers from several agencies, including the Virginia State Police, searched Culbertson, Commonwealth and other residential buildings with their tactical weapons drawn. No one was injured in the incident, officials said.

Police first received a 911 call from a UVa-Wise student shortly before 9 p.m. “to report he had seen a man on campus armed with a gun,” said Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller. Police responded and began a “building-by-building search,” she said.

By 9:25 p.m., UVa-Wise sent out the following message: “Hunker down; gunman on campus.” By 10:06 p.m., another alert was issued: “Lockdown continued. Alleged gunman on campus. Stay put! Lock all doors until further notice!”

Police officers at the scene yelled to bystanders to retreat back into buildings, blocking the entrances and exits to campus with their cars.

Geller said that as officers were conducting searches, state police agents were interviewing the student who phoned 911.

The Virginia State Police, along with several local agencies, responded Wednesday night to a report of a gunman on the UVa-Wise campus. Police now say the incident was an apparent hoax. Photo by Jordan Fifer | The Highland Cavalier

The Virginia State Police, along with several local agencies, responded Wednesday night to a report of a gunman on the UVa-Wise campus. Police now say the incident was an apparent hoax. Photo by Jordan Fifer | The Highland Cavalier

“During the course of the interview, the student confessed that it was a hoax,” Geller said.

Geller did not release any information about the student. It was not immediately clear if he would be charged.

“An investigation into the incident remains ongoing at this time,” she said.

By 10:54, college officials lifted the campus alert.

The heavy police presence stoked fears in many students, especially in an era when campus and school shootings are seemingly a daily occurrence on cable news.

“I looked out the window and there was like five cop cars, and then at 9:30 we got a text to hunker down and there was like fifteen cop cars outside our building,” said UVa-Wise student Kallie Niedhammer. “Someone yelled down the hall to stay down and get in your dorms, and then they yelled from the megaphone outside to get in your dorms and to stay down.”

This is a breaking news update. This post will be updated.

Staffers Todd Galyean, Corey Sanchez and Jessica Shartouny contributed to this report.


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4 Responses

  1. Shamerine says:

    So there was a thirty minute delay between the call and the warning?

  2. Jeffrey J Jewell says:

    Why were the police already on campus before lockdown was announced, uva wise needs to evaluate ther protocol before something serious happens!

  3. Jessica's Mom says:

    Good job Jessica, Jordan, Corey and Todd! Jordan – you were the source of information for us frightened parents wile this was going on. Thank you for that.

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