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UVa shooting suspect had been eyed in previous campus gun and hazing probes

The University of Virginia had wanted to know whether Christopher Darnell Jones Jr. owned a gun, but it wasn't immediately clear Monday how far the probe went.

A student accused of gunning down three University of Virginia football players had been on the school's radar for possible links to weapons and hazing, officials said Monday.

In the hours after the fatal shooting near a campus parking garage, authorities painted a troubling picture of the suspect, Christopher Darnell Jones Jr., 22, a former football player last listed on the school's gridiron roster in 2018.

The university’s “threat assessment team” had learned about Jones in September after a third party, who was not a student, reported that he spoke about having a gun, UVA Police Chief Timothy Longo told reporters.

He said the school’s student affairs office interviewed Jones’ roommate, who had not seen the suspect with a gun.

Image: A law enforcement blocks access to the crime scene where 3 people were killed and 2 others wounded on the grounds of the University of Virginia on Nov. 14, 2022 in Charlottesville, Va.
A law enforcement vehicle blocks access to the crime scene Monday where three people were killed and two others were wounded at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.Win McNamee / Getty Images

Moments after Longo relayed this information, a police officer briefly took him aside and whispered to him before the chief announced: “We just received information that the suspect is in custody.”

It wasn’t clear if the school’s internal investigation of Jones possibly having a gun ended with that roommate’s interview.

Jones had also been involved in a campus hazing probe, but it did not appear to lead to any disciplinary action, Longo said. Details on the probe were not immediately available.

“I know that it was eventually closed due to witnesses that would not cooperate with the process,” he said.

The police chief also revealed there had been a “prior criminal incident involving a concealed weapon violation that occurred outside of the city of Charlottesville” in February last year.

Again, it was not yet known if that incident led to any criminal charges.

Jones came to the university from Petersburg High School, which is about 100 miles southeast of Charlottesville.

Christopher Darnell Jones
Christopher Darnell Jones Jr.University of Virginia Police Dept.

He was listed in a profile on the 2018 Cavaliers team roster as a running back. The profile says he did not appear in any games that year, and it wasn’t immediately clear Monday why he left the program.

The suspect’s mother told NBC News on Monday she hasn’t had much contact with him in recent years. She said Jones moved in with his grandmother at age 16 and lived with her to round out his high school career.

Much of Jones' childhood was spent at the Essex Village and Mosby Court housing complexes in Richmond, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported in 2018.

Jones, who said he was a child when his father left the family, told the newspaper that he often got into fights — but found solace in schoolwork.

“When I come into the classrooms, everything flowed,” he said at the time.

Before his capture, an arrest warrant had been issued for Jones, who was sought on suspicion of three counts of second-degree murder and three counts of allegedly using a handgun in the commission of a felony, police said.

"My heart is broken for the victims and their families," UVA President Jim Ryan said. "When I see our students, I see my own kids."

A UVA men's basketball home game set for Monday night against the University of Northern Iowa was postponed.