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UVa knew of gun conviction against student before triple murder but never started discipline process

It was unclear whether Christopher Darnell Jones Jr.’s misdemeanor weapons conviction would have been enough to warrant timely university discipline.
Students and community members gather for a candlelight vigil after a shooting that left three students dead the night before at the University of Virginia on Nov. 14, 2022.
Students and community members gather for a candlelight vigil Monday after a shooting that left three students dead Sunday night at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.Shaban Athuman / Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — The University of Virginia admitted Tuesday it knew triple-murder suspect Christopher Darnell Jones Jr. had been convicted of a weapons charge weeks before this weekend's carnage and did not start a disciplinary process against him.

But it was unclear whether that understanding would have been enough for the elite Charlottesville school to take timely, serious action against Jones, the student accused of gunning down three Cavaliers football players.

The school had been "reviewing a potential hazing issue" when the Office of Student Affairs "heard from a student that Mr. Jones made a comment to him about possessing a gun," the university said in a statement Tuesday.

"The reporting party did not see Mr. Jones in possession of a gun," the statement said. "The comment about owning a gun was not made in conjunction with a threat."

As the probe moved forward, it was learned that "Mr. Jones previously had been convicted of a misdemeanor for a concealed weapons violation in 2021," the school said.

University spokesman Brian Coy said that it was "around mid-September" that the school uncovered Jones' gun incident and that "he had failed to disclose a conviction to the university, which is a requirement of university policy.”

The Office of Student Affairs moved Oct. 27 "to escalate his case for disciplinary action," the statement said.

But officials said they realized only after Sunday’s shooting that the report of his conviction was never relayed to the University Judiciary Committee.

While the student-led University Judiciary Committee might have been in a position to act against Jones, the school said that in "order to serve due process, their proceedings customarily take weeks or months."

"In the wake of the shooting yesterday, Student Affairs officials discovered that the report had not been transmitted to the University Judiciary Committee (UJC), and are working to correct that," the school said.

Jones, 22, is accused of gunning down D’Sean Perry, Devin Chandler and Lavel Davis Jr. and injuring two other people, Marlee Morgan and Michael Hollins, after a school field trip Sunday night.

Jones was on the Cavaliers' football roster for one season, in 2018, and police haven't immediately explained what might have motivated Sunday's bloodshed.

The suspect's previous encounter with police happened Feb. 22 last year as officers came up to Jones' car, near Boisseau Street and Third Avenue, because his vehicle registration "did not come back on file," Chesterfield County police said in a statement Tuesday.

Jones was arrested on the weapons charge, police said. He was given a 12-month suspended sentence and fined $100, according to court records. Jones' attorney in last year's gun case could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Jones was arrested Monday and booked on suspicion of three counts of second-degree murder and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony.

Albemarle County Commonwealth’s Attorney James Hingeley said Tuesday that Jones will also face two counts of malicious wounding and additional gun-related charges.

Brion Logan, 22, of Georgia, described himself as Jones’ best friend in middle school. The two met in the sixth grade in Richmond, Virginia.

Jones had a difficult upbringing at home and was bullied at school, Logan said.

“I would never think it would have gotten this far," Logan said. "He was a pretty smart guy. I would have thought he would have reached out to someone before it got this far.”

Antonio Planas reported from Charlottesville. David K. Li and Marlene Lenthang reported from New York.