Three University of Virginia football players were killed and two other students were injured in a shooting on Sunday, Nov. 13. The incident occurred on a charter bus of students returning from a class field trip to Washington, D.C. The three victims were all juniors: Devin Chandler from Virginia, Lavel Davis from South Carolina and D’Sean Perry from Florida. The university has not released the names of the two injured students. One is in critical condition with the other discharged from the hospital.
The shooting occurred shortly after 10 p.m. as the bus was pulling into a university parking garage after the students had seen a play on the field trip. Details on how the attack began remain unclear, but police said Perry and Chandler were found dead on the scene and Davis died from gunshot wounds at the hospital. The University of Virginia’s head football coach Tony Elliot described the three late football players as “incredible young men with huge aspirations and extremely bright futures” that were hard workers and representatives for their football program, university and community.
Christopher Darnell Jones Jr., the suspected gunman, was on the class field trip with the victims and has been taken into custody after a more than 12-hour long search for him that caused a campus wide lockdown order. Jones is a former member of the football team, who appears listed as a running back in the team’s 2018 roster but did not see any playing time. He was arrested Monday morning and faces three charges of second-degree murder, as well as three counts of using a handgun in alleged commission of felony.
Students were forced to shelter in place on campus with warnings to “RUN HIDE FIGHT.” Fourth-year student and Editor In-Chief of The Cavalier Daily Eva Surovell said, “People are stuck in the libraries, they’re stuck in academic buildings, they’re stuck in you name it.”
“I’ve been in my room since probably about 3 a.m. and you can hear cop cars, like cop sirens, every 15 or 20 minutes or so,” she said. The lockdown continued into early Monday morning as police searched for the shooter, and students were forced to remain in their campus locations.
Benjamin Bernard, a postdoctoral research associate stated, “The whole campus is in a state of limbo. Some of the students were in uncomfortable places like the library and had to lock down there. It has shattered the idyllic campus mood.” Jones had been brought to the attention of a university threat assessment task force that was formed to respond to threatening behavior by students. University of Virginia spokesman Brian Coy stated that while investigating hazing incidents on campus in September, people within the college’s department of student affairs “heard from a student that Mr. Jones made a comment to him about possessing a gun.” Coy noted that this remark was not made as a threat, and that no one officials spoke with, including Jones’ roommate, said they had seen him with a gun. However, school officials discovered while investigating Jones that he had been convicted of a misdemeanor concealed weapons violation in 2021 and received a 12-month suspended sentence and $100 fine.
Court records show that this was one of several misdemeanor charges Jones had been charged with over the last couple of years. He did not report the concealed weapons conviction to the college, despite being obligated to by campus policy. Coy explained that Jones refused to cooperate when questioned about the conviction by university officials. On Oct. 27, the school’s task force “escalated his case for disciplinary action” to be determined by a student judiciary body. Officials said the matter was pending at the time of the shooting.
Jones told The Richmond Times-Dispatch in a 2018 profile, “People would say, ‘You’re too smart to be doing something like that,’” regarding him being a top student that got in trouble for fighting. “But it’s because of where I was at. Sometimes I’m not in a good head space. Fighting at first was my only way of relieving stress.”
Jones appeared in court on Nov. 16, seeking his own counsel. He will be represented by a public defender in interim court and is currently being held without bond. His court date is set for Dec. 8. In court, a prosecutor read from a police report in which a witness stated that Jones was “aiming at certain people and was not randomly shooting.” There have been at least 68 shootings on school grounds in the past year, including 15 on college campuses, with at least one person shot in each case. This shooting is one of the nearly 600 mass shootings that have occurred in the U.S. this year, in which at least four people are shot, excluding the shooter. It is also at least the fifth since February on or near college campuses in Virginia alone.
Chandler, a third-year wide receiver, was a recent transfer from University of Wisconsin that had yet to play in a game at Virginia. Wisconsin’s interim head coach, Jim Leonhard, described him as a “joy to be around.” His previous professor for a Culture of Hip Hop course, Jack Hamilton, remembered him for his kindness. “The first couple times I met him, I was surprised he was a football player because he just seemed so nice,” he said.
Davis, a third-year African American studies major and starting wide receiver, was described as soft-spoken and friendly. He was the third-leading pass receiver on the team this season and had caught two touchdowns. Davis was an active member in the Groundskeepers, a group formed by the football team to work towards achieving racial justice in Virginia after the bigotry displayed in the 2017 white supremacist rally that took place in Charlottesville.
Perry, a third-year reserve linebacker, played in six of his team’s 10 games so far this football season. Michael Haggard, a lawyer for his family, said Perry’s parents will not speak publicly at this time, “as their grief is only beginning, and out of respect for the University of Virginia community which has been terrorized by another mass shooting in the United States.”
The University of Virginia has canceled its final home football game that was scheduled for Saturday. Elliot said in a news conference that his priority is being there for his team while they mourn. He said they will determine together when they are ready to return to playing, “I’m just trying to figure out, step by step, how to be strong for these young men.”