Exeter student jailed for eight months over fake gun threats

He received an eight month prison sentence

An Exeter student who triggered an armed police response when he made threats with a fake gun on campus has been jailed for eight months.

Yihe Xiong admitted position of an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence at Exeter Crown and County Court. He claimed that it was a prank or a joke.

But sentencing him to prison, Judge Peter Johnson said: “It was a calculated act of breathtaking stupidity.”

He added students did not know if he was about to go on a “killing spree” and praised police for their response.

Judge Johnson described Xiong as "academically gifted but socially awkward" and claimed that he "did this to impress and be admired."

He failed to understand how Xiong could have thought of what he was doing as simply a joke after previous incidents in schools and on campuses abroad.

Yihe Xiong took a realistic-looking imitation Beretta pistol into the Amory building where he was due to give a presentation.

He told fellow students he had 12 bullets and said: "If the presentation goes badly I am just going to open fire."

Prosecutor Herc Ashworth said Yihe Xiong was chatting to three other students when he produced a black handgun, waving it in the face of one of them.

He claimed it was a real gun and pointed it at another student, calling him a target.

One of the students informed a tutor who called the police, prompting the campus to be evacuated and an armed police response.

After he had been arrested Xiong said that he was kidding and did not hold a grudge against his classmates.

The court was told Xiong, who was studying a Master's degree in computer studies, was from a respectable family in China, where his father was a judge.

Brian Fitzherbert, in mitigation, said Xiong's parents had been left "utterly distraught".

He had won a scholarship to study for a PhD in Canada, but the court was told that he had been asked to leave the University of Exeter, ruining his hopes of becoming a software developer.

FitzHerbert claimed Xiong was not motivated by malice or cruelty but had shown a lack of judgement, thinking he was being "cool, daring and funny."

He pleaded for Xiong to be given a last chance, describing him as an "impeccable and immaculate" character who had no previous convictions.

His solicitor Caroline Salvatore said: "He is a Chinese 'hooray Henry'. He is full of loud japes of dubious decision but absolutely no ill will."

Featured image via: BBC News

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