CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — A former University of Virginia football player suspected of killing three football players and wounding two other students on campus late Sunday night is in custody after a manhunt in Charlottesville, Virginia, police confirmed Monday.
During a news conference Monday, University of Virginia president Jim Ryan said three Cavaliers football players were shot and killed: junior receiver Lavel Davis Jr. of Dorchester, South Carolina; junior receiver Devin Chandler of Huntersville, North Carolina; and junior defensive end/linebacker D’Sean Perry of Miami.
Authorities said the suspect in the shooting, identified as Christopher Darnell Jones Jr., was apprehended “without incident” just before 11 a.m. in Henrico County, Virginia. University of Virginia police chief Tim Longo said Jones, 22, had been arrested and charged with three counts of second-degree murder and three counts of using a handgun in the commission of a felony.
Jones was listed as a freshman running back on the team’s 2018 roster, and his roster bio noted that he previously played at Petersburg High School and Varina High School in Virginia.
Ryan said two other students were shot and were hospitalized; he said one was in good condition and one is in critical condition. Ryan did not identify the other students.
One of the injured students is junior running back Mike Hollins, his father told The Washington Post. Michael Hollins Sr. told The Post that his son is in “stable” condition after being shot in the back.
“The doctors said he’s going to recover,” Hollins Sr. told the newspaper. “They said because of his age and physical condition, he’s doing exceptionally well.”
“Mike is a fighter — and he’s showing it,” Hollins’ mother Brenda Hollins said to The Associated Press. “We have great doctors who have been working with him. And most importantly, we have God’s grace and God’s hands on him.”
A school official confirmed to ESPN that the fifth victim is a female student who was in good condition as of Tuesday morning.
Ryan said the shooting took place on a charter bus after students returned to campus from a field trip. He called the incident a “sad, shocking and tragic day for the university community.”
“Let me say how deeply sorry I am for the victims and for their family and friends,” Ryan said.
In a statement, Virginia football coach Tony Elliott said his team is experiencing “devastation and heartache.”
“I cannot find the words to express the devastation and heartache that our team is feeling today after the tragic events last night that resulted in the deaths of Lavel, D’Sean and Devin, and the others who were injured,” Elliott said in the statement. “These were incredible young men with huge aspirations and extremely bright futures. Our hearts ache for their families, their classmates and their friends. These precious young men were called away too soon. We are all fortunate to have them be a part of our lives. They touched us, inspired us and worked incredibly hard as representatives of our program, university and community. Rest in peace, young men.”
Cavaliers athletic director Carla Williams also issued a statement and offered prayers for the families of the students.
“As a mother of three children, I ache for the parents and family members,” Williams said. “We lost three talented and bright young men. We will never see what their impact on the world would have been, but we will never forget their impact on us. I miss Lavel, D’Sean and Devin. I pray for peace, comfort and hope for their parents and loved ones. For their teammates, coaches and friends, I pray for strength and a peace that surpasses all understanding.”
Ryan said the students had traveled to Washington, D.C., on Sunday to attend a play as part of a class field trip. Longo said the students enjoyed a meal together and then “someone amongst them chose to do an act of violence.”
About 13 minutes into the 20-minute news conference Monday, Longo was interrupted by another law-enforcement official and told that Jones had been apprehended. After announcing the arrest, Longo paused briefly.
“I just need a moment to thank God and breathe a sigh of relief,” Longo told reporters.
Jones’ father, Chris Jones Sr., told Richmond TV station WTVR he was in disbelief after getting a call from police on Monday.
“My heart goes out to their families. I don’t know what to say, except I’m sorry, on his behalf, and I apologize,” he said.
Longo said during the news conference that the university’s multi-disciplinary threat assessment team in September was notified by someone that Jones had made a comment about having a gun on campus. Longo said the person, who was not affiliated with the university, had never seen the gun.
“The comment about Mr. Jones owning a gun was not made in conjunction with any threats,” Longo said.
Longo said the office of student affairs contacted the person who reported Jones’ comments about the gun and attempted to speak with Jones.
Jones’ roommate told the university that he had not seen a weapon, Longo said.
The university later learned that Jones had been charged with misdemeanor concealed weapons charges outside Charlottesville in February 2021. He was required to report the criminal charges to the university but failed to do so. Longo said the university had taken administrative charges through the judiciary council against Jones and the case was still pending.
“I thought it important to share that information with you,” Longo said during the news conference. “To let you know that he had been called to our attention and to answer any questions you might have about that. I want you to hear that from me and not hear it from someone else.”
Longo said Jones was also the subject of a hazing investigation, but the case was closed because witnesses would not cooperate with the process.
Davis had 16 catches for 371 yards and two touchdowns this season. As a freshman in 2020, he caught 20 passes for 515 yards and five TDs, averaging 25.8 yards per catch. He did not play during the 2021 season because of a knee injury that required surgery.
“Saddening, saddening news this morning,” Newberry College assistant coach Sean Lampkin, a cousin of Davis’, posted to Twitter on Monday. “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 of my cousin Lavel Davis Jr.”
Said Davis’ father, Lavel Davis Sr., in a Facebook post: “Lord please help me.”
Perry had five tackles in three games this season, including two in the loss Saturday to Pitt. He had an 84-yard interception return for a touchdown during his freshman season in 2020.
Chandler had not appeared in a game this season after transferring from Wisconsin. He caught two passes for 28 yards as a freshman and had a 59-yard kickoff return in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl for the Badgers in 2020.
“Once a badger, always a badger,” University of Wisconsin interim head coach Jim Leonhard posted to Twitter on Monday in the wake of Chandler’s death. “He had a lasting impact on his teammates, even after he left UW, which is a testament to the type of person he was. His personality was infectious and he was a joy to be around. Our team is hurting for him and his family.”
“Although we do not yet have a full understanding of the motive and circumstances surrounding these events, police are investigating as we speak,” Ryan said during the news conference Monday.
“This is an unimaginably sad day for our community. The entire university community is grieving this morning. My heart is broken for the victims and their families and for all those who knew and loved them, and they are all in my prayers. As I’ve said before, when I see our students, I see my own kids, and I cannot imagine anything worse for a parent than losing a child.”
Thousands of Virginia students and community members gathered Monday night for a vigil on the South Lawn of campus. After walking to the center of the lawn together and sitting down for a 15-minute moment of silence, a group of students that included Cavaliers football players walked to the front of the crowd. Everyone else stood and pointed their candles and cell phones toward the group, which stood on the steps of Old Cabell Hall.
“Light in darkness. Thanks to our students for lighting the way,” Ryan wrote in a tweet.
Light in darkness. Thanks to our students for lighting the way. pic.twitter.com/kNOPXz8Y88
— Jim Ryan (@presjimryan) November 15, 2022
The men’s basketball matchup Monday between Northern Iowa and Virginia was canceled, as were classes and other academic activities scheduled for Tuesday.
The Virginia Tech women’s basketball team showed support for Virginia by wearing warm-up shirts honoring the victims of Sunday’s shooting.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.