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Student suspect in custody after 3 football players shot dead and 2 people wounded at the University of Virginia, police say

<i>University of Virginia Police</i><br/>
University of Virginia Police
University of Virginia Police

By Amir Vera, Dakin Andone, Michelle Watson and Carolyn Sung, CNN

Police have in custody a University of Virginia student and ex-UVA football player suspected of fatally shooting three current players and wounding two other people late Sunday at the school’s main campus in Charlottesville as a bus returned from a class field trip, school officials said.

The suspect, Christopher Darnell Jones Jr., faces three charges of second-degree murder and three counts of using a handgun in the commission of a felony, UVA Police Chief Timothy Longo Sr. told reporters Monday morning as an hourslong manhunt came to an end and authorities lifted a campus lockdown order.

Classes canceled Tuesday as campus mourns the shooting victims

Jones was arrested without incident around 11 a.m. ET about 80 miles east of Charlottesville in Henrico County, the county police agency said in a statement. An officer spotted the vehicle Jones was driving in the eastern area of Henrico where he was “taken into custody without incident,” according to news release from the police division.

Police have not offered a motive for the attack.

Those killed were Devin Chandler, Lavel Davis Jr. and D’Sean Perry, university President Jim Ryan said. The two wounded students are being treated at UVA Medical Center, with one in critical condition and the other in good condition, he said, declining to name them.

One of the two injured students was identified as Michael Hollins, according to Andrew Martin, the head football coach at the University Lab School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Hollins is a junior at UVA and is a running back for school’s football team, according to the team’s roster. CNN has reached out to Hollins’ family but has not received a response.

Hollins’ father, Michael Hollins Sr., told The Washington Post his son was shot in the back with the bullet lodged in his stomach. Hollins Sr. told the Post he’s expected to recover.

“This is a sad, shocking and tragic day for our UVA community,” Ryan said. “Let me say how deeply sorry I am for the victims and for their family and friends.”

Carla Williams, UVA athletics director, said in a statement that as a mother herself, she aches for the parents and family members of the victims.

“We lost three talented and bright young men,” Williams said. “We will never see what their impact on the world would have been, but we will never forget their impact on us. I miss Lavel, D’Sean and Devin. I pray for peace, comfort and hope for their parents and loved ones.”

Tony Elliot, UVA head football coach, said in a statement that it’s hard for him to find the words to “express the devastation and heartache that our team is feeling today.”

“These were incredible young men with huge aspirations and extremely bright futures. Our hearts ache for their families, their classmates and their friends. These precious young men were called away too soon,” Elliot said. “We are all fortunate to have them be a part of our lives. They touched us, inspired us and worked incredibly hard as representatives of our program, university and community.”

At least 68 shootings have unfolded this year on US school grounds, including 15 on college campuses, CNN finds, with at least one person shot in each case, not including the shooter. The deadliest school shooting in modern US history remains the 2007 attack at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, where a 23-year-old student killed 32 people before dying by suicide.

The shooting at the Charlottesville campus is also one of nearly 600 mass shootings in the US this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, which like CNN tallies cases in which at least four people are shot, excluding the shooter.

Shooting prompted immediate lockdowns

The attack happened Sunday on a bus returning from a class trip to Washington, DC, where the class had seen a play, university officials said. It was not immediately clear if Jones was part of that class or attended the field trip.

Police responded to a report of shots fired around 10:30 p.m. in an area near a parking garage on Culbreth Road and surrounded by academic buildings, Ryan said. Two slain victims were inside the bus, with the third victim taken to a hospital, where he died, Longo said.

The call prompted a shelter-in-place alert that was lifted about 12 hours later, Longo said. More than 500 people sheltered throughout campus buildings, including in libraries and classrooms, he said.

Monday classes at the university were canceled. The school canceled classes Tuesday to “to give “students the opportunity to reflect, mourn and gather with each other,” according to a news release. A family and community assistance center has also been set up on campus to provide UVA community members with mental health services, according to UVA Emergency Management officials.

Classes were also canceled Monday at Charlottesville City Schools, the K-12 district said in a letter to families. A UVA men’s basketball game scheduled for Monday evening has also been canceled, the university said.

In a statement, an attorney for Perry’s parents thanked the communities in both Charlottesville and South Florida — Perry was originally from Miami, the university said — for “the outpouring of support during this impossibly tragic time.

Happy and Sean Perry would not speak publicly at this time about their son’s death, attorney Michael Haggard said, out of respect for the university community, which “has been terrorized by another mass shooting in the United States.”

Suspect had been known to campus police

Jones had come to campus authorities’ attention in September, when authorities found out Jones “had made a comment about possessing a gun” to someone “unaffiliated with the university,” Longo said at Monday’s news conference. But that person never actually saw the gun in question, he said.

“Through the course of the threat assessment team’s investigation, we learned of a prior criminal incident involving a concealed weapon violation that occurred outside the city of Charlotteville in February of 2021,” Longo said, adding the suspect was required to report that incident to the university but never did. The school’s judicial council took over the case, and the results are pending.

Jones was also involved in a hazing investigation on campus that was closed because witnesses would not cooperate, Longo said.

It is “important to share that information with you,” he said, “to let you know that he had been called to our attention.”

Jones is listed on UVA’s athletics website as a football player in 2018 who as a freshman did not participate in any games. He attended Varina High School and Petersburg High School, where he played football as a linebacker and running back, according to his university athletics bio. While in high school, Jones was Key Club president and a member of the National Honor Society and the National Technical Honor Society, the bio says.

A UVA spokesperson told CNN Jones had a pre-existing injury that prevented him from playing on the football team in 2018. Jones went through medical treatment and rehabilitation during his time with the team and was only a member of the team for one season, the spokesperson says.

The spokesperson would not give details on Jones’ injury.

Federal prosecutors working with local authorities

Before the lockdown was lifted, UVA students early Monday were told to “take the shelter in place commands seriously as the situation remains active,” vice president and chief student affairs officer Robyn Hadley said in an email to UVA’s student body.

“We have all received several shelter in place texts, and they are frightening,” Hadley said, adding several police jurisdictions were working to find the suspect. “I am on grounds like many of you; I am sheltering in place and in direct touch with University leadership and UPD … If you are not inside and safe, immediately seek safety.”

Two UVA students who told CNN they were at the scene of the shooting Sunday night and saw part of it unfold described hearing faint popping noises and watching people flee the bus.

The students — both of whom are 21 and did not want to be identified — said they were walking to the gym when they saw the charter bus, still in motion. It was just after 10 p.m. when they heard the popping noises, the students said, but they didn’t think anything of it. The bus was going over a speed bump, they said, but then they saw it stop and saw emergency lights turn on.

The bus doors opened, the students said, and they saw people running out. The students told CNN they saw one fall to the ground.

The students hid behind a brick wall in front of the nearby band building before calling 911 around 10:17 p.m., they said. The call wasn’t answered, the students said, but they hung up when they heard sirens in the distance and saw law enforcement arrive.

State and federal prosecutors are helping local agencies in the investigation, according to a joint statement from the US attorney for the Western District of Virginia and commonwealth’s attorneys for Charlottesville and for Albemarle County. The officials pledged to support the investigation and “bring possible charges in the appropriate jurisdiction,” the statement said.

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin on Monday called the shooting a “horrific tragedy” and praised the work of law enforcement for taking the suspect into custody, according to a tweet. “While there are still many details to uncover, let us lift up the entire community in prayer.” The governor earlier had said Virginia State Police were “fully coordinating” with school and local police.

Vice President Kamala Harris spoke on the shooting shortly after swearing in a new ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago on Monday.

“It’s tragic,” Harris said. “Of course, our prayers are with the families of the victims and it’s just yet a constant reminder that we have to do better in terms of gun safety laws in our country.”

Meantime, another US campus — the University of Idaho — is reeling after police announced a homicide inquiry after officers Sunday discovered four people deceased in a home just outside Moscow campus grounds. The deceased were students, and the cause of their deaths is not yet known, the university confirmed, adding the threat has ended.

Separately, Charlottesville Police arrested a man in connection to “threatening social media posts” against UVA on Monday, but said they don’t believe the threats were tied to the earlier shooting.

“We understand the fear this caused in our community and acted swiftly to resolve this investigation,” a Charlottesville police news release said.

Sunday’s shooting is the University of Virginia’s latest high-profile run-in with violence: White nationalists in August 2017 marched across campus carrying torches and chanting racist slogans. A day later, demonstrators protesting Charlottesville’s plan to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee clashed with counterprotesters, one of whom was killed when a man drove his car into a crowd; that driver is serving life in prison.

A UVA lacrosse player five years earlier was convicted and sentenced to 23 years in prison for the 2010 killing of his ex-girlfriend, Yeardley Love, in her off-campus apartment.

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CNN’s Carroll Alvarado, Susannah Cullinane and Tina Burnside contributed to this report.

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