Charlottesville, Va. (AP) – A University of Virginia student who went on a field trip to see a play with classmates is suspected of firing shots inside the group’s bus as they returned to campus, a university spokeswoman has confirmed. Tuesday.
Christopher Darnell Jones Jr., 22, who was previously described as part of a group of about two dozen people who traveled about 120 miles (193 kilometers) from the campus in Charlottesville, Virginia, to Washington, is the suspect in the shooting, spokesman Brian Coy said. Sunday for the field trip. Jones, a former member of the school’s football team, shot and killed three current teammates and wounded two other students, police said.
The shooting sparked panic and a 12-hour campus lockdown until the suspect was apprehended outside Richmond on Monday.
University President Jim Ryan said at a news conference Monday that authorities do not have a complete understanding of the shooting’s motive or circumstances. Authorities said it was unclear how Jones was able to escape the scene of the shooting.
Jones was a member of the school’s football team during the 2018 season. He is accused of fatally shooting three current members of the team and injuring a fourth. Officials did not say if there were other injured students on the team.
Ryan identified the three students who were killed as Devin Chandler, Laval Davis Jr. and DeSean Perry.
University Police Chief Timothy Longo Sr. said Jones faces three counts of second-degree murder and three counts of using a handgun during the commission of a felony. It was not immediately clear when Jones would make his first court appearance.
His father, Chris Jones Sr., told Richmond TV station WTVR that he was in disbelief after receiving a call from police on Monday.
“My heart goes out to their family. I don’t know what to say other than I’m sorry for him, I apologize,” he said.
Jones’ mother, Margo Ellis, declined to be interviewed by The Associated Press on Tuesday. “There’s just too much going on,” she said.
Jones came to the attention of the university’s threat assessment team this fall amid a review of a “potential hazing issue,” the university said in a statement to the AP on Tuesday.
During that review, university officials heard from a student that Jones made a comment about having a gun. The statement said that student did not report being threatened by Jones. University officials investigated and later found that Jones had previously been tried and convicted of weapons violations in 2021.
“Throughout the investigation, Jones repeatedly refused to cooperate with university officials seeking additional information about his claim to have a gun and his failure to disclose a prior wrongful conviction. Accordingly, on October 27, the Threat Assessment Team escalated his case for disciplinary action,” the statement said.
The killings come as the country is reeling from a string of mass shootings in the past six months, including an attack at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, that killed 19 students and two teachers; Seven people have been killed and more than 30 injured in a shooting at a Fourth of July parade in suburban Chicago. A shooting at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York has left 10 dead and three injured.
Classes and other academic activities were canceled Tuesday, and Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin ordered flags to be lowered to half-staff out of respect for the victims, their families and the Charlottesville community.
UVA, the state’s flagship public university, has endured several high-profile tragedies over the past decade, including the 2014 disappearance and murder of a student. It was also the site of some violence by white supremacists who descended on Charlottesville for the 2017 “Unite the Right” events.
“I think UVA has affected a lot of weather in the past. “I think we’re an incredibly resilient community,” said Ellie Wilkie, 21, who took refuge in her room on the historic lawn in the center of campus during the lockdown.
But she added that she hopes students will have time to grieve the lives lost and that the university will consider whether systemic changes can be made to prevent something similar from happening again.
Associated Press writers Denise Lavoie in Richmond, Virginia; Michael Kunzelman and Sarah Brumfield in Silver Spring, Maryland; Ben Finley in Norfolk, Virginia, also contributed to this report.
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