After an extensive manhunt that stretched overnight, police on Monday announced they had at last apprehended a University of Virginia student suspected of killing three people and wounding two others in a mass shooting on the school’s main campus on Sunday night.
University President Jim Ryan issued a statement early Monday confirming that the suspect, Christopher Darnell Jones, Jr., was “one of our students.”
Jones opened fire on a bus full of students returning to UVA from a field trip to see a play in the Washington, D.C. area, school officials said.
Jones is included on the university’s athletics website as a 2018 football player who did not appear in any games, though it is unclear if he remains a student at UVA. All three victims—Lavel Davis Jr., D’Sean Perry, and Devin Chandler—were identified by Ryan as members of the school’s football team.
Jones’ mother, Margo Ellis, told The Daily Beast she is “not speaking to reporters right now” when contacted by phone on Monday.
UVA Police Chief Timothy J. Longo was informed mid-way through a press conference Monday morning that Jones had been nabbed. He added that authorities had received information from someone at the university last fall that Jones owned a gun. The Office of Student Affairs followed up with Jones and his roommate, who said he hadn’t ever seen a weapon.
Over the course of the investigation, UVA police learned of a Feb. 2021 concealed weapons violation that “occurred outside the City of Charlottesville,” Longo said, adding that Jones was required by school rules to report the case to the UVA administration but never did. Administrative charges through the university’s judiciary council are still pending, according to Longo.
“He had been called to our attention,” Longo said. “I wanted you to hear it from me, not hear it from someone else.”
Relatives of Jones’ told NBC 12 on Monday that he had been hazed while at UVA. He was known to the school from an alleged hazing incident, school officials said Monday, according to CBS reporter Olivia Rinaldi, who said that witnesses at the time “would not cooperate.” A source who knows Jones but asked not to be named told The Daily Beast that he had “been bullied” at UVA, “and it was bad.”
In a 2018 article on Jones, the Richmond Times-Dispatch painted a picture of a difficult childhood characterized by “a fractured family, school fighting and suspensions.” Jones told the outlet that his father leaving when Jones was just five years old was “one of the most traumatic things that happened to me.” The piece added that Jones attended an alternative school where he was able to avoid bullying, and that he had moved in with his grandmother in Petersburg in 2016 after the relationship with his mother deteriorated. It also said that in the two years before he started at UVA, “mentors helped him let go of his anger.”
Tracie Baines’ daughter attended Petersburg High School with Jones, and both knew him well, she said.
“This is so out of character, so very, very out of character,” Baines told The Daily Beast on Monday. “And when I say that, I’m not saying it to demean or to erase the tragedy that has occurred. But I know a different Chris.”
A shocked Baines, through intermittent tears, said Jones had been a conscientious teen who did well in school and worked to help out at home.
“I know a Chris who helped take care of his grandmother, who helped take care of his family,” Baines continued. “I know a Chris who got a scholarship to UVA, and it’s just a tragedy for all those involved.”
However, she said she hadn’t spoken to Jones since he got to UVA in 2018 and has “no knowledge of what transpired there.”
“It makes it more hurtful for me because my first cousin was killed Thursday in gun violence,” Baines said.
The father of D’Sean Perry first confirmed to Charlottesville’s Daily Progress that his son was one of those killed. Perry, 22, was a linebacker who played for the Virginia Cavaliers college football team.
His father, Sean Perry, said D’Sean was shot on a parking deck at the campus’ Culbreth Garage. He added that he and Sean’s mother, Happy Perry, were flying to Virginia from their hometown of Miami on Monday.
Lavel Davis Jr., a wide receiver, was identified as another victim by his cousin, Newbury College assistant football coach Sean Lampkin.
“Saddening, saddening news this morning,” Lampkin wrote in a tweet 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. Love and already miss you, kid.”
A motive for the attack remains unclear.
Shelter-in-place texts were sent out at around 10:40 p.m. Sunday night in the wake of the attack, and multiple agencies had been searching for Jones, who police said was armed and dangerous.
UVA canceled classes Monday as the shelter-in-place order remained in effect, though the order was lifted at around 10:30 a.m. “based upon a thorough search on and around” the college’s grounds, the UVA Police Department said. Charlottesville City Schools also canceled classes for its 4,000-strong student body “in order to give police time to investigate while they search for the suspect in our community.”
On Monday, Virginia’s Democrat Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine shared messages of support to the victims’ families. “Thinking of all impacted by the tragic act of violence on UVA’s campus,” Warner wrote.
“Heartbroken to hear of another Virginia community devastated by gun violence,” Kaine tweeted. “Praying for the UVA community and closely monitoring the situation.” He added: “We must take further action to make our communities safer.”