CHARLOTTESVILLE, Virginia: Three members of the University of Virginia football team were fatally shot and two others students were injured at a parking garage on campus late Sunday, U-Va. officials said, in an outburst of violence that set off an intense manhunt in and around Charlottesville for a suspect police described as armed and dangerous. He was captured Monday morning.
At an 11 am news conference, police said the suspect, identified as Christopher Darnell Jones Jr., 22, had been taken into custody and charged with murder. Jones was a freshman on the U-Va. football team in 2018 but did not appear in any games. Late Monday morning, U-Va. officials lifted a shelter in place order that had been in place since 11:30 p.m. Sunday.
Campus officials said the five students were shot on a bus that had returned from a field trip. Campus officials identified the deceased victims as Devin Chandler, Lavel Davis and D’Sean Perry. The two injured students were not identified, but officials said one was in good condition and another was in critical condition.
The outburst of violence set off an intense manhunt in and around Charlottesville for a suspect police described as armed and dangerous.
At 5:50 a.m. Monday, U-Va. police said agencies were conducting a “complete search on and around UVA grounds at this time. Expect increased law enforcement presence.” The campus had been under a shelter-in-place since 11:30 p.m. Sunday, and it was virtually empty except for law enforcement on Monday morning.
“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,” U-Va. President James E. Ryan wrote in a message to the community at about 4 a.m. “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.”
Classes for Monday were canceled. Charlottesville City Schools and Albemarle County School District schools were closed.
At 6:09 a.m. Monday, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) tweeted: “This morning, Suzanne and I are praying for the UVA community. Virginia State Police is fully coordinating with UVA police department and local authorities. Please shelter in place while the authorities work to locate the suspect.” Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine (D) said on Twitter that he was heartbroken to hear of the gun violence and was “closely monitoring the situation.”
The gunfire was reported at a parking garage on Culbreth Road about 10:30 p.m. Sunday, the University of Virginia Office of Emergency Management said.
University police said in a tweet that they were looking for Jones “regarding the shooting incident.” The manhunt for Jones went into the early morning hours, involving a state police helicopter and multiple law enforcement agencies.
Jones, according to a U-Va. sports website, was a freshman on the football team in 2018 but did not appear in any games. He had previously played linebacker and running back at Petersburg High School in Virginia. Before that, he spent three years at Varina High School, where he was an accomplished player. It was not immediately known whether he is still a U-Va. student, but two students said he still is listed in the U-Va. directory.
Just before midnight, the emergency management office urged students to continue sheltering in place and to “reach out to friends & family and advise of your status.” The shelter in place order was still in effect at 4 a.m.
In a message that followed about 1:15 a.m., Vice President and Dean of Students Robyn S. Hadley exhorted the community: “Please, please take the shelter in place commands seriously as the situation remains active.” Later, the emergency management office said multiple police agencies were “actively searching for the suspect.”
'People are genuinely scared'
The report of the shootings startled students and others on campus as the weekend was winding down.
“The second we all got that message that there was an active shooter, my phone flooded with messages,” said Eva Surovell, 21, of Alexandria, Virginia, who is editor in chief of the Cavalier Daily student newspaper. “People are genuinely scared.”
As of 2 a.m. Monday, Surovell said she was sheltering in her room on the university’s famed Lawn. She said she had been in touch with her mom and her sister at James Madison University to reassure them. “You just don’t really think something could happen like this to your community until it does.”
Danielle Werchowsky of Arlington, whose son is a student at U-Va., said: “UVA parents are glued to our social media right now. Parents are all on edge.” She said she urged her son in a phone call to turn off the lights in his apartment and stay away from windows.
Culbreth Road and the garage, where shots were heard, are about half a mile north of the Lawn and the Rotunda and near other campus buildings.
This is not the first time this year that a shooting has rocked a college campus in Virginia. In February, two campus police officers at Bridgewater College were fatally shot after they were checking out a report of a “suspicious man” near a classroom building. The suspect linked to their deaths was a former student.
Also in February, a late-night shooting at a hookah lounge near the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg left one person dead and four injured, police said. In 2007, Virginia Tech experienced one of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history when an undergraduate student killed 32 people, and himself, on April 16 of that year.