As authorities search for the motive behind the University of Virginia campus shooting that left three people dead and two others injured, the suspect’s father said he would like a face-to-face with his son to find out what led him to execute the violent attack.
Christopher Darnell’s Father Speaks Out
Christopher Darnell Jones Sr. said he is still shocked that his son would open fire on a charter bus with other students on Sunday night.
The 22-year-old told his father he was having problems, and his father tried to advise him. Jones Sr. said he wished his son would’ve called him before he pulled the trigger, and maybe the outcome would’ve been different.
“What happened? Why did it have to get this far? He could’ve called me,” his father told WWBT. “I don’t know why he didn’t call me Saturday. If he had called me Saturday, I think maybe I could have talked him out of some things, maybe, hopefully.”
Officials allege Christopher Darnell Jones Jr. targeted members of the UVA football team as they were returning from a field trip in Washington, D.C. Authorities responded to an emergency call at the school Sunday night in Charlottesville, Virginia, and found football players Devin Chandler and J’Sean Perry dead on a charter bus near a parking garage. Three other players were wounded. Lavel Davis Jr. died at the hospital.
Witnesses said they saw the suspect running away from the scene. The attack prompted a lockdown and manhunt for the assailant.
U.S. Marshalls swarmed Jones Jr.’s mother’s home more than an hour away in Henrico around 10 a.m. Monday, but he was not there. Instead, he was apprehended 5 minutes away from his family’s home before 11 a.m., according to authorities, about 12 hours after he allegedly carried out the attack.
Jones Jr.’s mother said she tried to call him several times after seeing news about the shooting, but he did not respond. However, she said he sounded normal when they spoke Sunday and was looking forward to celebrating his 23rd birthday on Nov. 17, WWBT reports.
However, he sought advice from his father about issues he was having last month.
“He had some problems the last time I talked to him. He said some people were picking on him or whatever, he didn’t know how to handle it, and I told him just go to school, don’t pay it any mind,” the father said. “He was really paranoid when I talked to him about something, but he wouldn’t tell me everything. He was a very sensitive young man.”
Jones Jr. moved in with his father during his senior year of high school after a disagreement with his mother.
He was a member of the UVA football team in 2018 but never participated in any games because of a pre-existing injury. Authorities said Monday they did not have a “full understanding” of the motive behind the crime.
However, university officials said he had been under investigation at least two times leading up to the incident.
“Mr. Jones has also come to the attention of our threat assessment team because he was involved in a hazing investigation of some sort,” UVA Police Chief Timothy Longo said. “I don’t know the facts and circumstances of that investigation. I know it was eventually closed due to witnesses who would not cooperate with the process.”
During that investigation, campus police also learned that Jones Jr. had a “prior criminal incident involving a concealed weapon violation” in another city in February 2021. Additionally, CNN reports that Jones had a misdemeanor conviction.
“What’s interesting about that case [is] he’s required as a student at the University of Virginia to report that, and he never did, so the university has taken appropriate administrative charges through the university’s judiciary council, and that matter is still pending adjudication,” Long said.
Brian Coy told CNN Tuesday that during the investigation, campus police “heard from a student” in September that Jones “made a comment to him about him possessing a gun.” However, Jones’ roommate “gave no indication of the presence of any weapons,” the statement reportedly said. Longo had said Monday the tip came from off campus.
Coy said Jones “repeatedly refused to cooperate,” and the threat assessment team recommended Jones for disciplinary action on Oct. 27.
Jones is now facing three counts of second-degree murder and three counts of using a handgun in the commission of a felony.
Remembering the Three Victims of the UVA Shooting
Hundreds flocked to a candle vigil for the slain players on Monday night. Students honored Chandler, Davis and Perry with signs with their football uniform numbers and names and a sign that said “Virginia Strong.”
Classes were canceled Tuesday to let students “reflect, mourn and gather,” UVA president Ryan Long said.
UVA athletic director Carla Williams said the deceased victims were “three talented and bright young men.”
“We will never see what their impact on the world would have been, but we will never forget their impact on us,” she said in a statement Monday. “I miss Lavel, D’Sean and Devin. I pray for peace, comfort and hope for their parents and loved ones.”
Outside of being a gifted football player, Davis’ family told The Washington Post he had a kind smile and wanted everyone around to be happy. The 20-year-old from Dorchester, South Carolina, was a movie buff who was fascinated with William Shakespeare.
“I wish it was me instead of him,” his father, Thaddeus Lavel Davis told the paper. Lavel was his firstborn child.
Davis was also a devoted Christian who would turn to the Bible for advice, according to reports.
“Lavel was an outstanding man,” said Tydles Sibert, the athletic director at his high school. “High character and integrity, very intelligent and well-spoken. He was a God-fearing Christian. Everything you look for in a student-athlete and a person.”
Perry also portrayed himself as a man of faith on social media. The Miami, Florida, native quoted a Bible scripture on his Instagram page and has an illustration of Black church worshippers as the cover art for his Twitter page.
His mother, Happy Perry, is leaning on her spiritual faith amid the tragedy.
“You promised that you would never leave me or forsake me, so I’m leaning on you, Lord,” his mother wrote on Facebook Tuesday. “I need you now.”
The head of her son’s former high school said he had a “kind heart, quick wit, and ready smile made him a favorite among his peers, teachers, and coaches.”
Chandler had recently transferred from the University of Wisconsin to UVA. One of his former football coaches, Alvis Whitted, said he was an “exceptional” player and an “all-around good guy who had a smile that would light up any room.”
Head University of Wisconsin coach Jim Leonhard said, “his personality was infectious, and he was a joy to be around.”
Chandler’s family, through a statement issued by an attorney, said they “would like to thank the countless people that have shown support and love during this horrific time.”