A murder warrant was taken out for Christopher Darnell Jones Jr. in connection with the deaths of University of Virginia football players D’Sean Perry, Devin Chandler and Lavel Davis Jr.

Nov. 14, 2022, 4:23 AM EST / Updated Nov. 14, 2022, 1:06 PM EST

By Marlene Lenthang, Dennis Romero and Chantal Da Silva

A student suspected in a shooting at the University of Virginia that left three members of the football team dead and two others injured is in custody, officials announced Monday.

University of Virginia Police Chief Timothy Longo said authorities secured an arrest warrant charging Christopher Darnell Jones Jr. with three counts of second-degree murder and three counts of using a handgun in the alleged commission of a felony following the deaths of D’Sean Perry, Devin Chandler and Lavel Davis Jr.

The identities of the two injured victims hospitalized were not shared during a news conference. One is in good condition and the other is in critical condition, UVA President Jim Ryan said.

Jones, 22, was taken into custody by Henrico County police in Richmond, Virginia, “without incident” just before 11 a.m., about 75 miles southeast of the UVA campus, the department said. 

He was a former member of the school’s football team. He was listed on the 2018 roster shared on the official website of the Virginia Cavaliers, but did not appear on the roster in any following seasons.

Shooting unfolded on school bus returning from seeing a play

Gunfire was initially reported at a parking garage on Culbreth Road, near the school’s drama building, around 10:30 p.m. Sunday, the UVA Office of Emergency Management said in a tweet.

Ryan said in a news conference Monday morning that the shooting unfolded on a school bus full of students returning from a field trip. The trip was to see a play in Washington, D.C., and was associated with a class, officials said.

Ryan identified the victims as Perry, a fourth-year student from Miami; Chandler, a second-year student from Virginia Beach, Virginia; and Davis, a third-year student from South Carolina. 

A manhunt was launched for the suspect and students were issued warnings earlier to “RUN HIDE FIGHT” and shelter in place. A search was conducted on and around the campus grounds early Monday, the university’s emergency management office said, involving multiple agencies, including a Virginia State Police helicopter.

The shelter in place order was lifted around 10:30 a.m. after “a thorough search on and around” the grounds.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said early Monday it was assisting in the investigation.

Police are searching for a suspect, who remains at large.
A bus idles behind police tape during an active shooter situation at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Va., on Monday.Mike Kropf / The Daily Progress via AP

“This is a message any leader hopes never to have to send, and I am devastated that this violence has visited the University of Virginia,” Ryan said in an email to students. He said classes would be canceled for Monday, with only designated essential employees expected to report to work.

The suspect was once on the football team, school was told that he had a gun

During the search, the UVA Police Department warned people to not approach the suspect, who was considered “armed and dangerous,” and shared a photo of Jones.

The same photo appears on a profile for Jones on the Virginia Cavaliers 2018 football roster. The profile says he did not appear in any games that year.

His mother, who is identified in public records as Margo Ellis, told NBC News in a phone call Monday that her son has lived with his grandmother since he was 16 and that she didn’t know of his whereabouts or what might have contributed to the shooting. 

Officials explained Monday that Jones had landed on the radar of school authorities in the past years.

Longo said Monday that in September, the UVA Office of Student Affairs received information that Jones had made a comment about possessing a gun to a person unaffiliated with the university. The office flagged that to a multidisciplinary threat assessment team affiliated with UVA.

Longo said the comment about Jones owning a gun was “not made in conjunction with any threats.”

The office followed up with the person who flagged the concern and with Jones’ roommate who did not report seeing the weapon. It’s not clear how the matter was resolved.

The threat assessment team also looked into Jones in relation with a hazing investigation, a case that was eventually closed because witnesses would not cooperate with the process, Longo said. It’s not clear when the alleged hazing incident took place.

Longo said the team’s investigation also led them to learn about a criminal incident involving Jones in February 2021 involving a concealed weapon violation outside Charlottesville. Jones did not report the incident to the school as per protocol.

“The university has taken appropriate administrative charges through the university’s judiciary council, and that matter is still pending adjudication,” Longo said.

The victims: Football players for the Virginia Cavaliers

Davis, 20, was a wide receiver on the Virginia Cavaliers’ current roster. 

He was set to graduate in December and was a beloved first child and a “role model” to his younger brother and sister, his father, Thaddeus Lavel Davis, told NBC News. 

The father said he was “heartbroken.”

Virginia Cavaliers wide receiver Lavel Davis Jr. (1) walks off the field at the conclusion of the college football game on Sept. 10, 2022, at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Ill.
Virginia Cavaliers wide receiver Lavel Davis Jr. walks off the field at the conclusion of the college football game Sept. 10 at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Ill.Michael Allio / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

“I lost my baby. This is my firstborn child,” he said, adding that his son who could “light up a room just with a smile” was focused on school, football and his family. 

Their family, from Charleston, South Carolina, was heading to the UVA campus Monday. 

The grieving father said he learned the news of his son’s death Monday morning after receiving a call from his wife while he was at work, but didn’t know exactly what transpired in the shooting.

He said he last talked to his son Saturday and he wished he could’ve told him one last time, “I love you, son.”

An attorney for Perry’s parents, Happy and Sean Perry, issued a statement thanking the South Florida and the Charlottesville communities for “the outpouring of support during this impossibly tragic time.” 

“Right now, Happy and Sean will not speak publicly about the incident as their grief is only beginning, and out of respect for the University of Virginia community which has been terrorized by another mass shooting in the United States,” attorney Michael Haggard said. 

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin said in a statement Monday that he and his wife are “praying for the UVA community.” 

“Virginia State Police is fully coordinating with UVA police department and local authorities,” he said.

The White House also issued a statement on the shooting Monday.

“The President and First Lady are mourning with the University of Virginia community after yet another deadly shooting in America has taken the lives of three young people. Our deepest condolences are with the countless families, friends, and neighbors grieving for those killed as well as those injured in this senseless shooting,” the statement said.