Virginia Tech freshman had assault rifle, attempted to buy 5,000 rounds of ammo, police say

Man, 19, had been Tech student for six months

By Irisha Jones - Reporter, Jeff Williamson - Digital Content Manager

BLACKSBURG, Va. - Police have arrested a Virginia Tech student they say illegally had an assault rifle.

Virginia Tech police arrested 19-year-old Yunsong Zhao on Monday and charged him with possessing or transporting an assault firearm while not being a  U.S. citizen or while not being lawfully admitted for permanent residence to the U.S, according to the arrest warrant.

The charge is a class 6 felony.

The warrant also states that per the complainant, in addition to having an assault rifle, Zhao attempted to buy 5,000 rounds of ammo, had been researching bulletproof vests and bought a former police vehicle that still bears some police markings, which he outfitted with a special bumper.

Zhao, who has family in China, has no known criminal history and lived in Cochrane Hall, according to the warrant.

Virginia Tech says that as of Tuesday, Zhao is no longer a student at the university, though he was one at the time of his arrest.

Tech also says the threatening rumor that Virginia Tech Police posted about is unrelated to Zhao's arrest.

The university released this statement on its website Tuesday evening:

On Tuesday, Virginia Tech received many calls from concerned community members following media reports of an arrest made Monday by Virginia Tech Police involving a student on a weapons charge.

The arrest followed an investigation that spanned several weeks, and the suspect is now in custody.

At no time during this investigation did police believe there was any threat to our community, nor is there one now.

Also on Monday, social media posts were made concerning a rumor that an individual was stockpiling weapons on or near campus. The arrest Monday was not related to the rumor nor have these rumors been substantiated in any way.

On Monday, Virginia Tech Police Chief Kevin Foust posted the following message — provided below — on a parent’s group Facebook page as well as the VT Police web page. It is shared below for the wider Virginia Tech community.

As always, the safety of the Virginia Tech community is the top priority of the university and its police department. Police remain vigilant at all times and work around the clock to keep our campus safe. They deeply appreciate reports or concerns of campus safety and investigate each and every one. At any moment, if there is a threat to campus, VT Alerts will be used to notify the community.

Right now, there is no threat to our community. And because there was no threat a VT Alert was not sent Monday.

Facebook post from Chief Kevin Foust - Originally posted on Jan. 29
Friends,

Earlier today, VTPD received information about a rumor that “someone on campus” had been “stockpiling weapons” and the students “should avoid large lecture classes”.  Understandably, others hearing this were deeply concerned, too.  VTPD immediately investigated but have found no evidence this rumor is accurate. However, we will continue to be vigilant for our community.

We always encourage members of our community to contact us anytime there is a concern about safety, security and/or suspected violation of the law on campus.  All of us at Virginia Tech are fully committed to keeping our campus and satellite facilities as safe and secure as possible.  Rest assured that if VTPD possesses any information indicating an impending or immediate threat to campus, we will take the necessary steps to alert our community.

Today, following a lengthy investigation, VTPD served an arrest warrant on a student for a firearms violation. Hence, we obtained an arrest warrant for that student and took him into custody earlier today without incident.  It is quite possible this case sparked the rumor from earlier today.

As always, we greatly appreciate the vigilance of not only our campus community but of all of Hokie nation.  We work very closely with all departments across campus as well as our law enforcement colleagues in Blacksburg, Christiansburg, Montgomery County as well as the state and federal authorities.  I want to personally thank each and every one of you in assisting us here in our efforts to keep all Hokies safe.

Chief Foust
VTPD

Cochrane Hall_1517342597144.jpg.jpg

He is being held at the Montgomery County Jail without bail.

This past April marked 10 years since the Virginia Tech shooting when a gunman killed 32 people on campus.

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