University of Virginia student accused of killing three football stars in campus mass shooting is arrested

College officials had been warned that Christopher Darnell Jones was in possession of a gun prior to the shooting

Rachel Sharp
Monday 14 November 2022 18:43 GMT
University Of Virginia Shooting Suspect Taken Into Custody

The “armed and dangerous” University of Virginia student accused of killing three college football stars in a campus mass shooting has been taken into custody after more than 12 hours on the run.

Christopher Darnell Jones, a 22-year-old student and former football player for the college, was arrested late on Monday morning following a huge manhunt and charged with three counts of second-degree murder and three counts of using a handgun in commissom of a felony, University of Virginia Police Department confirmed.

Mr Jones is accused of opening fire on a bus full of students on Sunday night as they arrived back at the parking garage in the main campus along Culbreth Road in Charlottesville. The group of students were returning from a class field trip to see a play in Washington DC at the time.

Three football players on the university team the Virginia Cavaliers – D’Sean Perry, Lavel Davis Jr, and Devin Chandler – were killed in the attack.

Two other students were shot and wounded and taken to hospital for treatment. One of the surviving victims remains in a critical condition while the other is in a good condition, authorities said. Their identities will not be released at this time.

In a press conference on Monday morning – during which time officials dramatically learned of Mr Jones’s arrest – police revealed that college officials had been warned about the suspect possibly owning a gun prior to Sunday’s mass shooting.

Police said that, sometime in the fall, Mr Jones fell onto the radar of the threat asssessment team following a concerning report from an unidentified third party.

The individual had contacted the university to say that Mr Jones had made comments about possessing a gun.

The university tried to follow up with Mr Jones and spoke to his roommate – who said he had not seen him with a gun, said police.

Prior to that incident, the 22-year-old student was also on the radar of college officials over a hazing incident.

As well as the college incidents, law enforcement officials said that Mr Jones was also involved in a prior criminal incident involving a concealed weapon in February 2021, outside of Charlottesville. Under the university’s rules, Mr Jones should have reported it to the school but didn’t, police said.

Now, just weeks on from the warning to college officials, Mr Jones is accused of shooting dead three of his fellow students and wounding two more.

Lavel Davis Jr was killed in the shooting on Sunday night
Lavel Davis Jr was killed in the shooting on Sunday night (Supplied)

University president Jim Ryan said that police had been called to reports of shots fired in the parking garage at around 10.30pm on Sunday night.

Officers arrived on the scene to find multiple victims suffering from gunshot wounds, three of them fatal.

Police said that the bodies of Perry and Chandler were found inside the bus.

Suspect Mr Jones went on the run in the aftermath of the shooting and a massive manhunt was launched to track him down.

The campus was plunged into lockdown overnight, with students and staff urged to shelter in place and multiple law enforcement agencies and police helicopters drafted in.

The University of Virginia Police Department (UVAPD) finally lifted the shelter in place at around 10.30am local time on Monday following “a thorough search on and around grounds”.

Police warned that Mr Jones should be considered “armed and dangerous”, with police urging people to call 911 – and not approach – if they saw him.

The 22-year-old was last seen wearing a burgundy jacket, blue jeans and red shoes and he may be driving a black SUV with the licence plate TWX3580, police said.

It is not clear if the victims knew their alleged killer or if the shooting rampage was targeted or carried out at random.

Mr Jones is also a student at the university and was on the Virginia Cavaliers team roster in 2018, according to a profile on the team’s website – however he did not appear in any games that year.

D’Sean Perry was a star football player on the college team
D’Sean Perry was a star football player on the college team (CBS19 Sports)

The bio lists the 22-year-old’s numerous accolades and honours during high school, describing him as a played linebacker and running back at Petersburg High School who “earned honorable mention all-conference honors as a senior”.

He spent his first three years of high school at Varina High School “where he earned honorable mention all-conference as a freshman and second-team accolades as a sophomore and junior”, the bio says.

Mr Jones was also a member of the National Honor Society and was named Student of the Year as a freshman and sophomore at the high school.

The 22-year-old had been hailed as something of a success story after overcoming a troubled childhood to become a model student.

One of four siblings, he grew up in housing complexes in Richmond, according to a 2018 Times-Dispatch story.

Mr Darnell Jones’ father abandoned the family when he was a boy and he reportedly got into trouble at school for fighting.

But, the “smart and quiet” student appeared to turn things around and get his anger under control, playing football and graduating from high school in 2018.

D’Sean Perry, Lavel Davis Jr. and Devin Chandler
D’Sean Perry, Lavel Davis Jr. and Devin Chandler (University of Virginia Athletics/AP)

No motive has been given for Sunday night’s attack, with officials saying it is still under investigation.

Perry, a 22-year-old fourth-year student from Miami, was a talented lineback for the University of Virginia football team and had last played just hours before his death, when the team took on Pittsburgh on Saturday.

According to a profile on the Virginia Cavalliers website, Perry previously played linebacker, defensive line and tight end at Gulliver Prep and was named the South Florida Conference’s 2018 Defensive Player of the Year.

He also made the Team USA under-19s team and appeared in the International Bowl in Dallas, Texas.

After graduating high school, he majored in studio art at the University of Virginia.

His grieving father Sean Perry confirmed his 22-year-old son’s death and said that he and the victim’s mother Happy were flying from Miami to Virginia.

Sean Lampkin, an assistant football coach at Newberry College, paid tribute to his cousin Davis as “one of his most kind, humble, loving soldiers” and said that his family is “devastated” by the news.

“Saddening, saddening news this morning. God took one of his most kind, humble, loving soldiers off of the battlefield last night. Please pray for my family as we are devastated by the passing my cousin Lavel Davis Jr. Love and already miss you, kid,” he tweeted.

As a talented wide receiver Davis was added to the 2022 Comeback Player of the Year Watch List just last month.

Christopher Darnell Jones is accused of carrying out the attack
Christopher Darnell Jones is accused of carrying out the attack (UVAPD)

Originally from South Carolina, the third year student played wide receiver and safety at Woodland High School before he was selected to play in South Carolina’s North-South all-star game.

Chandler was a second year student from Virginia Beach, Virginia, and a former University of Wisconsin wide receiver who played for University of Wisconsin football team in 2020 and 2021 seasons

He transferred to the University of Virginia after the past season.

Prior to that, he started his prep career at Arlington High School in Tennessee where he played wide receiver and defensive back before transferring to William Amos Hough High School in North Carolina for his senior season, according to his Cavaliers’ online profile.

University president Mr Ryan said in a memo to students and staff on Monday morning that he was “heartbroken” and “devastated” over the incident, saying that “this is a message any leader hopes never to have to send”.

“As of this writing, I am heartbroken to report that the shooting has resulted in three fatalities; two additional victims were injured and are receiving medical care,” he wrote.

“We are working closely with the families of the victims, and we will share additional detail as soon as we are able.

“Our University Police Department has joined forces with other law enforcement agencies to apprehend the suspect, and we will keep our community apprised of developments as the situation evolves.”

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