A student brought a fake gun to his university campus and threatened to “start opening fire” if a presentation did not go well, a court heard.
Yihe Xiong, 25, a masters student from China, took the replica Beretta 92 weapon to the University of Exeter’s Streatham site in Devon on July 19.
He told classmates that he had 12 bullets and claimed he would start shooting “randomly” if he was not happy with how his presentation at 10.30am went.
Exeter Crown Court heard armed police attended the campus after Xiong pointed the replica firearm at a student sat behind him, saying: “Here’s another target.”
Judge Peter Johnson jailed Xiong, who admitted possessing an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence, for eight months.
“It was a very realistic imitation of a Beretta pistol, with moving parts,” the judge said.
“It was only when firearms officers were able to physically examine it that they saw it was not a real firearm.
“You were due to give a presentation that morning. For some reason, you took the imitation firearm with you from your lodgings.
“You took it out, cocked it and pointed it at your fellow students. You made jokes about shooting them and others at random, saying you had 12 bullets.
“This was a calculated act of breathtaking stupidity.”
The court heard Xiong, an aspiring computer software developer, was due to give his presentation at 10.30am on June 19.
He met fellow students outside the classroom and began to wave what appeared to be a black handgun in their faces.
Xiong told them: “I’ve got 12 bullets in this pistol and if my presentation goes badly, I’m going to start opening fire,” before pointing it at one with a jerking motion.
He also said to one of those present: “There are 12 bullets in my gun. Don’t worry, I won’t shoot you but if I’m not happy with the presentation today, I’ll shoot the other three randomly.”
The court heard Xiong put the imitation weapon in his trousers before going into the presentation room.
After sitting down, he pointed the fake gun at a student sat behind him and said: “Here’s another target.”
Xiong left it under his coat on his seat while he completed his presentation.
When he returned, he told students that he had been joking about the gun and offered to show them it was fake.
A lecturer was alerted and called police, who dispatched armed officers and a dog unit to the campus.
“You severely frightened a number of your fellow students,” the judge told Xiong.
“You did this in the middle of a busy university in the day time. Rumours that there was a gunman on the loose were no doubt spreading like wildfire.”
The judge told Xiong that armed officers headed to the campus to confront “a gunman, not knowing if he was going on a killing spree”.
“The officers in these circumstances are on a knife edge,” he said.
“This was a place of learning, full of students, that was put into a state of lock down while armed police attended.”
In victims impact statements, students told how they had been suffering “flashbacks” following the incident.
Representing Xiong, Brian Fitzherbert described his client as immature and said his life had been left in tatters by the “rash, cruel and thoughtless joke”.
“He thought his conduct was cool and he thought others might think it was funny, daring and something to be admired,” Mr Fitzherbert said.
Xiong immediately apologised to police and told them it was a replica pistol as soon as they arrived at the scene, the court heard.
He insisted he did not have a grudge against any of his classmates and said he only intended to fool them for a short period of time.