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EXCLUSIVE
Guns in America

UVa linebacker was talking to mom just before he was killed on bus with teammates

“We’re lost, but we’re not empty,” Sean Perry said. “I know my son is right here as we speak.”

MIAMI — Moments before the deadly gunfire that claimed his life four weeks ago, a University of Virginia football player was on the phone with his mother, his parents said Wednesday.

D’Sean Perry, a linebacker for the Cavaliers, was one of three athletes who were shot on a bus as they returned to campus from a field trip.

Perry was chatting with his mother at 10:06 p.m. ET Nov. 13 as they approached campus, said his parents, Happy and Sean Perry.

Minutes after they hung up, social media lit up with word of an active shooter on the Charlottesville campus, his parents said.

“He said they were on the way back almost to campus and his phone was going dead," his mother said.

“Then we started getting tweets ... from social media about that there was an active shooter at the school.” 

D'Sean Perry.
D'Sean Perry.University of Virginia

D’Sean Perry didn’t call back, but his parents tried to keep their spirits up, believing their son’s phone just wasn’t working.

“Dreadful, to say the least,” the victim’s mother said of that agonizing wait. “I had called my sister and let her know what was going on. I just needed everyone to pray.”

Then, by 2:30 a.m., Perry's parents got the sad phone call, telling them their son was among three students who had been fatally shot.

“I heard my wife on the phone. Once she got the call, she just broke down crying,” Perry’s father said. “All I could do is run around the house and say ‘no,’ and we just cried together.”

D’Sean Perry and wide receivers Devin Chandler and Lavel Davis Jr. were killed a little more than 30 hours after the team’s game against the University of Pittsburgh.

It was the last contest of Virginia’s season, as the team elected to call off the final two games in the wake of the shootings.

Former Virginia football player Christopher Darnell Jones Jr. has been arrested and charged.

Perry's parents said they plan to be active in the national push for gun safety regulations.

"If we don't do something about it, it will continue," Sean Perry said. "We’re just a voice. We’re just two voices just trying to make people aware of what happened to our son.” 

Virginia linebacker D'Sean Perry runs on the field during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Syracuse on Sept. 23, 2022 in Syracuse, N.Y.
Virginia linebacker D'Sean Perry during the second half of a game against Syracuse University in Syracuse, N.Y., on Sept. 23.Adrian Kraus / AP file

"We're lost, but we’re not empty," Sean Perry said. "I know my son is right here as we speak."

D’Sean Perry, a South Florida native and studio art major, was set to graduate in January.

He had two more years of athletic eligibility, and his parents said he was weighing going to graduate school and staying on the football field.

Kerry Sanders reported from Miami and David K. Li from New York City.