CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — A University of Virginia student accused of killing three football players after a field trip over the weekend shot one of the victims while he was sleeping and appeared to be aiming at "certain people," prosecutors said Wednesday.
Christopher Darnell Jones Jr., 22, appeared from jail by video link for his first court appearance Wednesday morning. No bond was set.
Jones appeared emotionless during the hearing, dressed in a black-and-white jail uniform. He was appointed a defense attorney on an interim basis and said, “I will be seeking my own counsel.”
Prosecutor James Hingeley of the Albemarle County Commonwealth's Attorney’s Office described facts in the case, noting that five people were shot.
He said that Jones shot Devin Chandler while he was sleeping, according to a witness, and that he slid onto the floor.
The witness reported that Jones was aiming at “certain people” and “not randomly shooting,” Hingeley said.
Jones is charged with three counts of second-degree murder, five counts of use of a firearm in the commission of a felony and two counts of malicious wounding in connection, court records show.
Hingeley also spoke in court about the suspect's criminal history. Jones was arrested Feb. 22, 2021, in Chesterfield County, Virginia, on a concealed weapons violation, Hingeley said. He was convicted on June 10, 2021, and given a 12-month suspended sentence, Hingeley said.
When he was arrested in Chesterfield County, Jones had outstanding warrants for hit-and-run and reckless driving out of Petersburg, Virginia, Hingeley said. He was given a 12-month suspended sentence on each of the charges on Oct. 18, 2021, Hingeley said.
University officials admitted Tuesday that they learned of Jones’ conviction on the weapons charge around mid-September and did not start a disciplinary process against him.
Jones next court date is set for Dec. 8.
Chandler, D’Sean Perry and Lavel Davis Jr. were killed Sunday night. Two other students were wounded. One remained hospitalized in serious condition, and another was being discharged Tuesday, University of Virginia Health spokesperson Eric Swensen said.
The shooting happened around 10:30 p.m. Sunday, after Jones and about two dozen classmates had returned to campus from a field trip to see a play in Washington, D.C., university spokesperson Brian Coy has said.
Gunfire was reported at a parking garage near the school's drama building when the students got back to campus, officials said.
The shooter fled, prompting a manhunt and a shelter-in-place order that lasted about 12 hours.
Henrico County police apprehended the suspect just before 11 a.m. Monday in Richmond, about 75 miles southeast of the Charlottesville campus.
More coverage of the deadly University of Virginia shooting
- U.Va. knew of gun conviction against student before triple murder but never started discipline process
- University comes together in grief after campus shooting that killed 3 football players
- University of Virginia shooting suspect had been eyed in previous campus gun and hazing probes
- Three university football players killed in shooting are remembered as role models with 'lasting impact'
- Father of shooting suspect says son told him people were "picking on him," seemed "paranoid"
The violence has devastated the university community. University officials canceled classes Tuesday and offered counselors and therapy dogs.
Jones’ father, Christopher Darnell Jones Sr., said he is in shock. He said his son recently told him some people were “picking on him," but he didn’t go into details.
Jones Sr. told NBC affiliate WWBT of Richmond: “I can’t believe it was him. I still can’t believe it now.”
He said he last talked to his son a month ago.
The suspect was listed on the 2018 roster shared on the Cavaliers’ website; his profile noted he did not appear in any games. He also was not on the roster in any following seasons.
Antonio Planas reported from Charlottesville and Marlene Lenthang from New York.