A witness who saw a University of Virginia studenton a bus returning from a field trip, he described to police how the gunman targeted specific victims – many of them – shooting one of them while he slept, a prosecutor said in court on Wednesday. The details emerged during the defendant’s first court hearing.
Albemarle County Commonwealth attorney James Hingeley said a witness who was shown a photo of the shooting suspect, Christopher Darnell Jones Jr., identified him as the shooter. Three football players were killed in the violence on Sunday evening and a player and another student were injured.
The suspect, a former football player, appeared via video link from a local jail for Wednesday’s court hearing. He did not plead the many charges he faces and said he plans to hire a lawyer. A judge ordered him held without bail and appointed a public defender to represent him until he finds a private lawyer.
University and police officials have said the 22-year-old suspect joined a group of about 20 others on a Sunday field trip from the Charlottesville campus to see a play in the nation’s capital, about 200 years old. kilometers away. When their bus arrived back on campus, authorities said the suspect opened fire, killing Lavel Davis Jr.and Devin Chandler.
A witness told police the suspect pointed the gun at Chandler, shot him as he slept, and Chandler slid to the floor, Hingeley said.
The witness said the suspect was “aiming at certain people” and not firing randomly, according to Hingeley.
Officers found Chandler and Perry dead on the bus, Hingeley said. Davis died of his injuries in a hospital, he said.
The public prosecutor who has been appointed to represent the suspect did not comment on the substance of the indictment on Wednesday. She also declined to comment outside of court.
The judge set a status hearing in the case in December.
Authorities said the suspect was able to flee the scene of the shooting, sparking a manhunt and 12-hour campus lockdown before being taken into custody elsewhere in the state late Monday morning. The suspect faces three counts of second-degree murder, two counts of intentional wounding and additional charges related to weapons.
The violence at the state’s premier public university has sparked days of mourning among students and faculty, the wider Charlottesville community and other supporters. Classes resumed on Wednesday.
University president Jim Ryan said Monday that authorities did not have a “full understanding” of the motive behind the shooting. Court documents filed so far in the case have offered no additional insight, and Hingeley did not discuss a possible motive on Wednesday.
In a video statement posted to Facebook Wednesday evening, Ryan said, “It’s possible, and maybe probably, that we’ll never find one thing that will explain this. It’s also possible that we’ll never really understand why this happened.”
Ryan said the school “invites an outside review regarding the university’s interactions with the suspect, and whether we did everything we could to prevent or avoid this tragedy.”
Also Wednesday, the schoolthat it canceled its last home game of the season, scheduled for Saturday against Coastal Carolina. Ryan said on Wednesday night that there would instead be a memorial service on Saturday “to honor the lives” of the three football players killed, along with the two other injured students.
Announcing the cancellation, the university said in a press release that no decision has yet been made on whether UVA will participate in the final game of the season on November 26 against Virginia Tech in Blacksburg.
According to athletics director Carla Williams, the suspect was on the football team during the 2018 season, a semester-long walk-on.
In interviews, his father has expressed confusion and surprise and apologized to the families of the victims.
Of the two students hospitalized, one was discharged from the medical center on Tuesday, according to Eric Swensen, a spokesman for the health system.
Relatives of Mike Hollins, a running back on the team, have said he underwent a second surgery on Tuesday.
In her first television interview since the shooting, Hollins’ mother Brenda Hollinsthat her son doesn’t yet know that three of his friends and teammates have died.
Hingeley also reviewed the suspect’s criminal record in court on Wednesday. In February 2021, he was charged in Chesterfield County with possession of a concealed handgun without a license and later received a 12-month suspended sentence, Hingeley said.
At the time of that arrest, the suspect had two outstanding warrants in connection with a collision involving property damage and reckless driving from Petersburg. He was convicted on both charges and also received 12 months of suspended sentences on both, Hingeley said.
The university has said that the suspect’s failure to report the concealed weapon conviction was a consideration in an ongoing assessment of him by the threat assessment team. The university initially said its student affairs office had escalated the suspect’s case in late October to the University Judiciary Committee, a student-led body that could have taken disciplinary action. But late Tuesday night, a spokesperson confirmed that the university had not actually escalated the report and was working on it.