By BILL DRAPER
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri man accused of falsely reporting a gunman walking around the Central Methodist University is no terrorist, as prosecutors allege, but rather the victim of hysteria created by an incident that has been blown out of proportion, his attorney said.
Brian Baxter, 21, of Fayette, was arraigned Wednesday on a felony charge of making a terroristic threat and released on $20,000 cash bond. The maximum sentence for a conviction on that charge is four years in prison.
In a criminal complaint filed Tuesday, Howard County prosecutor Deborah Reikhof said Baxter “knowingly caused a false belief or fear that an incident involving danger to life had occurred” by calling 911 and claiming an armed man was walking toward Burford Hall on the university campus.
That call, placed April 3 just after 10 p.m., prompted a two-and-a-half-hour lockdown of five dormitories housing more than 600 students while investigators went building-to-building looking for a suspect.
Four days later, police were given a cellphone found near campus that linked Baxter to the 911 call, according to a probable cause statement by Police Chief Jeff Oswald. The phone’s owner told police he had given the phone — which didn’t have a SIM card or battery — to a freshman earlier in the semester, but Oswald wrote that he didn’t believe that story.
Later that day Oswald was called to Reikhof’s office, where the phone’s owner admitted he had given the phone to Baxter a few days before the “gunman prank,” and that Baxter had admitted making the call.
Baxter’s attorney, Greg Robinson, told The Associated Press on Thursday that authorities had received multiple calls about an alleged gunman walking around campus, and he’s not even sure what police think Baxter did.
“I think this is hysteria,” Robinson said. “There’s something about a terrorist threat that sounds sexy, but it’s a lot of overblown stuff and he is not pleading guilty to anything like that.”