The University of Virginia student accused of carrying out a mass shooting that left three student-athletes dead and two more injured reportedly legally purchased guns on two separate occasions after previously being denied.
Christopher Darnell Jones Jr, 22, reportedly first attempted to purchase a firearm in 2018, but was blocked because he was under the legal purchasing age of 21, Marlon Dance, the owner of the shop that made the sales, told CNN.
Jones then attempted to purchase a gun in 2021, but this sale also didn’t go through, Mr Dance confirmed in a statement to CNN, because of a pending criminal charge.
“Jones DID NOT receive either of the firearms he attempted to purchase, and both attempted purchases were forwarded to the Virginia State Police for further action,” Mr Dance said.
The 22-year-old was successful in purchasing a rifle in February 2022 and a 9mm pistol in July, the statement read, but there was “nothing noteworthy” about those purchases.
It was unclear whether either of the firearms purchased by Jones in 2022 were used during Sunday night’s “targeted attack” on a bus near the Charlottesville campus that killed football stars Devin Chandler, D’Sean Perry and Lavel Davis Jr and wounded fellow student-athlete Michael Hollins and Marlee Morgan.
The group onboard the bus had been returning home from the nation’s capital after going to see a play when the suspect, who officials confirmed was on the field trip with the victims, opened fire.
Jones’ attempts to purchase firearms arrives as more details about the UVA student’s past have come to light, which includes an investigation into the 22-year-old that was flagged to a multidisciplinary university threat assessment team for claiming he owned a gun.
“Because I want to be transparent with you, I want you to know … Mr Jones came to the attention of the University of Virginia’s threat assessment team in the fall of 2022,” said UVA Police Chief Timothy Longo during Monday’s press conference. Jones, he said, had made comments about owning a gun but – based on his knowledge – had not made any threats.
Later in the week, it was revealed that through the course of this investigation, the university learned that Jones had violated protocol by not informing the administration about a criminal incident in February 2021 in which he had been involved.
The criminal investigation took place outside of Charlottesville and was in relation to a concealed weapon violation, NBC reported. “He’s required as a student at the University of Virginia to report that and he never did, so the University has taken appropriate administrative charges through the University’s judiciary council and that matter is still pending adjudication,” Mr Longo said.
By Tuesday, however, UVA confirmed in a statement to Fox 5 DC that the recommendation to the university judiciary council for discipline had failed to materialise. “On October 27, Student Affairs decided to escalate his case for disciplinary action,” UVA’s statement read.
That escalation, the letter notes, arrived only after Jones had reportedly “repeatedly refused” to cooperate with officials in the probe. “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 statement said, before noting that the judiciary body’s proceedings “customarily take weeks or months”.
Separate from the school’s probe, it was also reported this week that Jones faced a pending charge that “was reduced to a misdemeanor by the court in October 2021, thereby removing the prohibition against future purchases,” Virginia State Police spokesperson Corinne Geller said in a statement.
In a televised statement to students on Wednesday night, UVA President Jim Ryan addressed the growing concerns that the community is raising about whether this kind of tragedy could’ve been prevented and what responsibility the school bears.
“A criminal investigation is underway and we are also inviting an external review with respect to the university’s interactions with the suspect and whether we did all we could do to prevent or avoid this tragedy,” said Mr Ryan in a Facebook video stream. “This will likely take a while, but we will share and act upon what we ultimately learn.”
Jones appeared via video conference at the Albemarle General District Court on Wednesday for his first court appearance where he was arraigned for three counts of second-degree murder, three counts of using a firearm in the commision of a felony and two more counts of malicious wounding, each accompanied by a firearm charge, UVA Police Chief Timothy Longo Sr said.
The 22-year-old was denied bond and has his next hearing scheduled for 8 December.
During his arraignment, Jones told the Virginia courtroom that he intends to hire an attorney but will require two weeks to retain one, according to WAVY News. In the meantime, the judge presiding over the hearing appointed a public defender for Jones.