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Warrants reveal new details about Virginia Tech student charged for illegally having assault rifle

CHRISTIANSBURG, Va. – The former Virginia Tech freshman charged with illegally having an assault rifle was denied bond on Thursday.

Yunsong Zhao, 19, arrived in the Montgomery County courtroom dressed in an orange jumpsuit and chains.

Before being arrested Monday, Yunsong Zhao was previously seen firing a Buschmaster XM-15 at the Jefferson National Forest shooting range, according to a search warrant.

What made this illegal is the fact that the gun he was firing had a 30-round magazine in it, which by law changes the status of the gun from a rifle to an assault firearm, according to the warrant.

The warrant states investigators learned Jan. 22 that Zhao bought a 30-round magazine from Whitetail Outfitters.

Three days later, Virginia Tech police learned that Zhao had bought the gun and checked it into the student gun locker at the police department, according to the warrant.

The warrant states that while it was not illegal to own the two items separately, it would be illegal for Zhao to use that magazine with his rifle given his student visa status.

The warrant states that Zhao checked out his Buschmaster XM-15 from the student gun locker at 4 p.m. Friday, Jan 26. and went to the shooting range.

According to the warrant, a Blacksburg police detective saw Zhao firing the gun with the 30-round magazine attached. The detective says he also saw Zhao put the weapon and magazine in the trunk of his vehicle when he left shortly after 5 p.m.

The judge says he would have granted Zhao bond if it wasn't for an ICE detainer placed on the former student.

Zhao's attorney showed pictures in court suggesting that his client did not have a 30-round magazine, but rather a 20-round magazine attached to the Buschmaster  XM-15 at the gun range.

Zhao did take the stand on Thursday to answers questions from his attorney related to the bond hearing. 

During a recorded jail conversation. the commonwealth's attorney's office said Zhao said he thinks it's cool he's famous in China and is looking forward to a victorious return to China. 

Zhao is expected to be back in court in March.

About the Authors:

Irisha joined the WSLS news team in January 2017 after spending four years as a reporter in Georgia.

Jeff Williamson arrived at WSLS 10 in March 2016.