CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – The suspect in the University of Virginia shooting that left three people dead and two wounded was part of the class field trip that ended in tragedy Sunday night, a university spokesman said Tuesday.
UVA’s Brian Coy said suspected gunman Christopher Darnell Jones Jr., 22, was a member of a group of about two dozen who traveled 120 miles by bus to watch a play in Washington, then returned to campus.
“Someone amongst them chose to do an act of violence” when the bus got back around 10:30 p.m., university Police Chief Timothy Longo said. Officers responding to a report of shots fired found the bodies on the bus, he said.
Police said Jones, a former player on the school’s football team, opened fire inside the bus and killed three current team members while wounding two other students, at least one of them also a football player.
Juniors D’Sean Perry, Lavel Davis Jr. and Devin Chandler were identified as the victims. Running back Mike Hollins, also a third-year player, was one of two people wounded in the attack, his mother said.
Ryan Lynch, a second-year student on the trip, told Philadelphia TV station KYW the suspect pulled out a gun as they arrived back and pushed one of the now-deceased football players, saying, “You guys are always messing with me.”
“They just kept coming, more and more gunshots – just wouldn’t stop,” Lynch said, adding the gunman then “just sort of walked or skipped off the bus.”
The rampage prompted a 12-hour campus lockdown while police pursued the shooter. Jones was arrested Monday morning in Henrico County, Virginia, near Richmond. He faces three charges of second-degree murder and three charges of use of a firearm in the commission of a felony. Jones is scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday.
Classes were canceled for a second straight day Tuesday at the campus community mourned the victims and grappled with the shock of the violence.
Jones, a freshman on the 2018 team who did not play in any games, faces arraignment on three counts of second-degree murder and related charges. No motive for the attack has been determined, authorities said.
‘COMMUNITY WILL COME TOGETHER’:Vigils, prayers in the wake of UVA shooting that left 3 dead
Wounded running back Mike Hollins undergoes second surgery
Virginia junior running back Mike Hollins is the fourth known victim in the shooting and was undergoing surgery Tuesday morning, according to his mother, Brenda. She wrote on Twitter that her son was scheduled to undergo a second surgery at 8 a.m. ET on Tuesday. She asked followers to continue praying for him and “for all of the families that are going through this horrific tragedy.”
“Mike is in surgery now!!! Please pray!” she wrote in a second tweet, adding the hashtags “#GODisgood” and her son’s jersey number, #7. A native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Hollins appeared in 21 games during his first three years at UVA. He has rushed for 215 yards and two touchdowns so far this year.
– Tom Schad
WOUNDED UVA FOOTBALL PLAYER HAS SURGERY: Mike Hollins was one of two shooting victims who survived
Father of suspect ‘can’t believe it,’ apologizes for his son
Jones’s father, Christopher Darnell Jones Sr., says he’s still trying to process the accusations against his son. Jones Sr. told NBC12 in Richmond, Va., that his son always excelled at everything he tried and had a “movie star smile.” But he said something was off when he and his son last spoke about a month ago. He said some people were picking on his son and the young Jones “didn’t know how to handle it.” Jones Sr. told his son to ignore it and go back to school.
“What happened? Why did it have to get this far?” his father said. “I don’t know what to say except I’m sorry on his behalf, and I apologize. He’s not a bad kid. He really isn’t.”
3 UVA FOOTBALL PLAYERS KILLED: Details emerge
Football team in shock over losing three ‘beautiful, young human beings’
His voice cracking at times, UVA head football coach Tony Elliott told reporters Tuesday the team is “still in shock’’ about the Sunday night shooting rampage that left three Cavaliers players dead and another one hospitalized and in need of two surgeries. Another person was wounded in the attack inside a bus at the end of a class field trip, but it’s not clear whether he or she was connected to the team.
Former UVA football player Chris Jones Jr., a freshman walk-on on the 2018 team who didn’t play in any games, has been charged with three counts of second-degree murder.
“It feels like it’s a nightmare, to be honest with you, and I’m ready for somebody to pinch me and wake me up and to say that this didn’t happen,’’ said Elliott, in his first season at Virginia after 11 years as an assistant coach at Clemson.
Elliott and Athletic Director Carla Williams did not provide much information about the incident, including whether other players were on the trip, but she said Jones and the victims did not overlap on the team.
Elliott described the victim as “three beautiful, young human beings’’ and said wide receiver Lavel Davis Jr. was a caring teammate who was passionate about what he believed in, linebacker D’Sean Perry was cultured with an artistic bent and wide receiver Devin Chandler had a bubbly personality.
No decision has been made on whether to play Saturday’s game at Liberty.
“You prepare for the job,’’ Elliott said. “There’s no chapter on a situation like this.’’
‘THE COMMUNITY WILL COME TOGETHER’:Vigils, prayer in the wake of UVA shooting that left 3 dead
Service dogs provide welcome distraction for students
Dozens of UVA students and staff members took a respite from rain and sadness Tuesday to spend time with animals provided by Service dogs of Virginia, a nonprofit that places dogs with people battling issues ranging from diabetes to autism to PTSD.
Among the black and yellow Labradors was Champ, a sweet and unruly service dog in training. Champ, 6 months old, is already a “fixture on campus” and has helped students decompress during finals and midterms, his handler Amy Lowell said. Lowell said the skills a dog needs to help a person with PTSD translate well to helping students during stressful situations.
“In times like these a dog is very sensitive to what’s going on and … is super helpful just by being fluffy and delicious,” she said.
Champ alternated between greeting students, chewing on cardboard signs that read “dog love no charge” and barking at his companions like Holly, an 8-month-old black Labrador. Holly’s handler, assistant professor of nursing Beth Quatrara, volunteers with the nonprofit and said the event was a way for members of the nursing school to support the community.
“Coping with the aftermath of the shooting is all about support and leaning on each other, reaching out to each other. And that’s what’s gonna get us through,” said Quatrara, who has taught at the university for 25 years. “And Holly’s going to help every step of the way.”
Hundreds gathered Monday night to mourn on campus
Students, faculty and community members gathered Monday night to remember the dead and reflect on the tragedy. At fraternity and sorority houses steps away from the crime scene, students spray-painted “UVA Strong” and “Virginia Strong” banners, displaying the names and numbers of Perry, Davis and Chandler. Luke Stone, 21, a management and marketing major, said the messages were meant to provide encouragement to the emotionally shattered campus community.
“It’s been a tough day for a lot of people,” Stone said, standing in front of a “Cville Strong” banner Monday afternoon. “Just a sad, tough day for all of us.”
– N’dea Yancey-Bragg, USA TODAY