An exchange student from China was arrested for possessing an assault rifle, police said.
Yunsong Zhao, 19, was charged 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 Collegiate Times.
Zhao is a freshman at Virginia Tech. In 2007 a senior shot and killed 32 people and wounded 17 others at the university in Blacksburg.
Virginia Tech police were alerted to Zhao after he purchased an AR-15 rifle on Jan. 25.
It’s illegal for a person on a student visa to own assault firearms, or, “any semi-automatic center-fire rifle or pistol that expels single or multiple projectiles by action of an explosion of a combustible material and is equipped at the time of the offense with a magazine which will hold more than 20 rounds of ammunition or designed by the manufacturer to accommodate a silencer or equipped with a folding stock,” according to the Code definition, reported WDBJ.
Court records obtained by the broadcaster said that Zhao also tried to buy 5,000 rounds of ammunition, was researching bulletproof vests, and bought a former police car and outfitted it with special bumpers.
But officials at the university said that there was never a credible threat to the community.
“At no time during this investigation did police believe there was any threat to our community, nor is there one now,” said a university statement posted online Tuesday night.
“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.”
The statement came about the Virginia Tech police received a report that “someone on campus” had been “stockpiling weapons.”
“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,” the department said in a statement.
“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.”
Zhao is being held at the Montgomery County Jail, with a preliminary hearing scheduled for March 1.