Police have arrested a former University of Virginia football player suspected of fatally shooting three football players dead and leaving two others wounded, university officials have confirmed.
Christopher Darnell Jones Jr. was taken into custody as the suspect in the shooting, which occurred late Sunday night.
According to The Associated Press, a bus full of students was arriving back on campus Sunday after a field trip to see a play, when gunfire erupted near the parking garage around 10:15 p.m.
University of Virginia (UVA) president Jim Ryan identified the three Cavaliers football players who were shot and killed during a news conference Monday morning: 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.
Jones, who is currently a student at UVA, has been charged with three counts of second-degree murder, as well as a firearms charge.
Ryan told reporters that the two wounded students were hospitalized; one is in critical condition and the other is in good condition. He did not identify the students.
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.
University Police Chief Timothy Longo Sr. said that the suspect had once played on the football team, although he had not been a member of the team for at least a year, reports ESPN.
Longo also revealed during the news conference that the university’s threat assessment team was notified in September by someone that Jones had made a comment about having a gun on campus. The person, however, was not associated with the university and had never laid eyes on the gun.
“The comment about Mr. Jones owning a gun was not made in conjunction with any threats,” Longo said, adding that officials followed up with Jones’ roommate, but did not find anything related to the report.
Longo also said Jones had been involved in a “hazing investigation of some sort.” He said he did not have all the facts and circumstances of that case, though he said the probe was closed after witnesses failed to cooperate.
In addition, officials learned about a prior incident outside Charlottesville involving a weapons violation, Longo said. That incident was not reported to the university as it should have been, he said.
Officials said Monday that they did not know of a motive or reason for Sunday’s attack.
“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.
“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.”
A shelter-in-place order was lifted for the Charlottesville campus Monday morning, about 12 hours after it was put in place.
More than 500 students stayed overnight in the university’s libraries and classrooms while the order was in effect, reports the New York Times.
Eva Surovell, the editor-in-chief of the student newspaper, The Cavalier Daily, told The Associated Press that after students received an alert about an active shooter late Sunday night, she ran to the parking garage, but saw that it was blocked off by police. When she went to a nearby intersection, she was told to go shelter in place.
“A police officer told me that the shooter was nearby, and I needed to return home as soon as possible,” she said.
She waited with other reporters, hoping to get additional details, then returned to her room to start working on the story. The gravity of the situation sunk in.
“My generation is certainly one that’s grown up with generalized gun violence, but that doesn’t make it any easier when it’s your own community,” she said.
— With files from The Associated Press