A student suspected in a shooting at the University of Virginia that left three members of the football team dead and two others injured is in custody, officials announced Monday.
University Police Chief Timothy Longo said authorities secured an arrest warrant charging Christopher Darnell Jones Jr. with three counts of second-degree murder and three counts of using a handgun in the alleged commission of a felony in the deaths of D’Sean Perry, Devin Chandler and Lavel Davis Jr.
Authorities speaking at a news conference declined to name the two wounded victims. University President Jim Ryan revealed that one was in good condition and that the other was in critical condition.
A high school football coach said one of the injured was Cavaliers running back Michael Hollins, a native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. His mother, Brenda Hollins, tweeted that Hollins went into his second surgery Tuesday morning.
“Keep praying!!! And please keep praying for all of the families that are going through this horrific tragedy,” she wrote in the tweet.
Jones, 22, was taken into custody by Henrico County police in Richmond “without incident” just before 11 a.m., about 75 miles southeast of the university’s campus, the police department said.
He is a former member of the football team. He was listed on the 2018 roster shared on the official website of the Virginia Cavaliers but did not appear on the roster in any following seasons.
Shooting unfolded on school bus returning from seeing a play
Gunfire was reported at a parking garage on Culbreth Road, near the school's drama building, around 10:30 p.m. Sunday, the university’s Office of Emergency Management said in a tweet.
Ryan said at a news conference Monday morning that the shooting happened on a school bus full of students returning from a field trip. The trip, to see a play in Washington, D.C., was associated with a class, officials said.
Ryan identified the victims as Perry, a fourth-year student from Miami; Chandler, a second-year student from Virginia Beach, Virginia; and Davis, a third-year student from South Carolina.
A manhunt was launched for the suspect, and students were issued warnings earlier to “RUN HIDE FIGHT” and shelter in place. A search was conducted on and around the campus grounds early Monday, the emergency management office said, involving multiple agencies, including a Virginia State Police helicopter.
The shelter-in-place order was lifted around 10:30 a.m. after “a thorough search on and around” the grounds.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said early Monday that it was assisting in the investigation.
“This is a message any leader hopes never to have to send, and I am devastated that this violence has visited the University of Virginia,” Ryan said in an email to students.
The suspect was once on the football team, school was told that he had a gun
During the search, university police shared a photo of Jones and warned people not to approach him, saying he was considered "armed and dangerous."
The same photo appears on a profile for Jones on the Virginia Cavaliers' 2018 football roster. The profile says he did not appear in any games that year.
His mother, who is identified in public records as Margo Ellis, said in a phone call Monday that her son has lived with his grandmother since he was 16 and that she did not know his whereabouts or what might have contributed to the shooting.
Officials said Monday that Jones had landed on the radar of school authorities in previous years.
Longo said Monday that in September, the Office of Student Affairs received information that Jones had made a comment about possessing a gun to a person unaffiliated with the university. The office flagged that to a multidisciplinary threat assessment team affiliated with the university.
Longo said the comment about Jones' owning a gun was “not made in conjunction with any threats.”
The office followed up with the person who flagged the concern and with Jones’ roommate, who did not report having seen the weapon. It is not clear how the matter was resolved.
The threat assessment team also looked into Jones in relation with a hazing investigation, a case that was eventually closed because witnesses would not cooperate with the process, Longo said. It is not clear when the hazing incident is alleged to have occurred.
Longo said the team’s investigation also led it to learn about a criminal incident in connection with Jones in February 2021 involving a concealed weapon violation outside Charlottesville. Jones did not report the incident to the school in accordance with protocol.
“The university has taken appropriate administrative charges through the university’s judiciary council, and that matter is still pending adjudication,” Longo said.
Classes canceled; counselors available
Classes were canceled Tuesday "in order to give our students the opportunity to reflect, mourn, and gather," Ryan said in a joint statement with Provost Ian Baucom.
They asked professors to be flexible about assignments and attendance. Grief counselors were available to students and staff members traumatized by the events, they said.
"This has been an incredibly challenging day for our entire community," the statement read.
Describing the victims as "three talented and bright young men," athletic director Carla Williams said they had promising futures cut short Sunday night.
"We will never see what their impact on the world would have been, but we will never forget their impact on us," she said in a statement Monday. "I miss Lavel, D’Sean and Devin. I pray for peace, comfort and hope for their parents and loved ones."
Head football coach Tony Elliott said in a statement the university sent alongside Williams' reaction: "I cannot find the words to express the devastation and heartache that our team is feeling today after the tragic events last night that resulted in the deaths of Lavel, D’Sean and Devin, and the others who were injured.
"These were incredible young men with huge aspirations and extremely bright futures. Our hearts ache for their families, their classmates and their friends."
Early Monday evening, St. Paul’s Memorial Church, an Episcopal institution on campus, held a vigil and a prayer service to memorialize the victims.
The school said it plans a universitywide vigil for students and faculty and staff members.
Governor praying for victims; senators decry gun violence
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin said in a statement Monday that he and his wife are “praying for the UVA community.”
"While there are still many details to uncover, let us lift up the entire community in prayer," Youngkin added.
Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner thanked law enforcement for quickly catching the suspect.
"Heartbroken to hear of another Virginia community devastated by gun violence," Kaine said in a statement.
Warner said: "We must continue working to address the epidemic of gun violence."
The White House said in a statement Monday: “The President and First Lady are mourning with the University of Virginia community after yet another deadly shooting in America has taken the lives of three young people. Our deepest condolences are with the countless families, friends, and neighbors grieving for those killed as well as those injured in this senseless shooting.”