Stuart Penn aimed the weapon at five people during the incident, in Leegomery, Telford on July 28 last year, asking if they were ‘Alex’ or knew where ‘Alex’ was.
Shrewsbury Crown Court heard how Penn, 40, had been suffering mental health problems when he pressed the crossbow against one man’s head as he questioned him.
Sentencing him Judge Anthony Lowe said: “It must have been absolutely terrifying for those who saw him. Crossbows are the most terrifying as weapons go.
"Had it not been for the background and for you not having already been in custody, a prison sentence would be passed.”
“With your problems things like alcohol and illicit drugs are off limits,” he told Penn.
Miss Suzanne Francis prosecuting told the court Penn was first seen by a witness, in Leegate Avenue, at around 8.45pm, and had pointed the crossbow directly at his head.
From there, Penn went to Hurleybrook Way where he aimed the weapon at another man, asking if he knew ‘Alex’.
A short time later, also in Hurleybrook Way, he approached another man and brought the metal crossbow up to his face. When the man pushed the crossbow away and it discharged, with the bolt hitting a nearby house.
Miss Francis said: "On July 28, 2019, the police received several telephone calls from members of the public who were extremely concerned that someone was walking around in the Leegomery area of Telford with a crossbow.
“Armed police and a dog handler were called to the area. Mr Penn was found in quite a state and was rugby tackled to the floor. After a search the crossbow and some bolts were found in a bush.”
He was arrested and has been in custody until the sentencing hearing on Tuesday.
Penn, of Castle Street, Hadley, previously admitted charges of affray, possession of an offensive weapon in a public place and threatening a person with an offensive weapon in a public place.
He has seven previous convictions for 17 offences, including battery, robbery for which he was jailed for more than three years in 2007, and racially aggravated assault and motoring offences.
In mitigation Miss Debra White said the case had been delayed due to issues with Penn’s psychiatric reports.
“The opinion of Dr Gupta does show that he was mentally unwell at the time of these offences,” Miss White said.
Penn was sentenced to a two-year community order with a mental health treatment requirement with experts and up to 60 days rehabilitation activity days. He must pay the victims’ surcharge and the judge ordered the forfeiture and destruction of the crossbow.
Judge Lowe said the sentence reflected Penn’s mental health issues and that while on remand he had in effect served the equivalent of a mandatory term for the offence.