FITCHBURG (CBS) – Dozens of Fitchburg State University students showed up at a bail reduction hearing at Worcester Superior Court in support of Andrew Despres, who was being held on $50,000 bail over charges of trespassing and carrying ammunition without a firearms license.
Despres was arrested after campus police discovered he was wearing what turned out to be a fake ammunition belt. He spent a week in jail before having his bail reduced to $500 on Wednesday.
WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Kim Tunnicliffe reports
Last Monday, Despres, 20, of New Bedford reportedly was expelled from school for alleged possession of marijuana, knives and fireworks on campus.
The next day, he was arrested for trespassing on the Fitchburg State campus after he failed to inform campus security that he had returned to pick up his belongings.
During a pat down, officers who arrested Despres discovered he was wearing a military-style ammunition belt and charged him with carrying ammo without a license.
Friends say the belt was a fashion statement, and according to family members, the bullets were not live rounds.
Despres’ mother told WBZ that her son purchased the belt for $20 from a punk rock website and had been wearing it to class every day for two years.
Had they been live, police said Despres did not have any weapons on him that would be capable of firing those types of bullets.
A Google search of “punk ammo belt” found a website that sells similar belts.
The site posts a disclaimer that reads, “DON’T WEAR THIS BELT TO SCHOOL OR ANYWHERE ELSE WHERE FOLKS MAY FREAK OUT AND CALL THE COPS!!! Use common sense, to the untrained eye these belts look just like live ammunition and non-punk rock types will take the threat seriously.”
Despres’ mother believes her son was stereotyped because of his appearance, and that police overreacted in the wake of the Newtown, Connecticut massacre.
His grandmother says, given the recent events, the overreaction was understandable, but still unfair.
“The belt was fake. It wasn’t fair,” Despres’ grandmother Barbara said.
A petition on Change.org calling for Despres’ release from prison had received more than 700 signatures by Wednesday.
Despres was released Wednesday after the judge lowered his bail.
He has to wear a GPS bracelet and has been ordered stay away from the Fitchburg State campus.