A witness who saw a University of Virginia student open fire on a bus returning from a trip, he described to the police how the gunman was targeting specific victims – many of them footballers – shot one of them as he slept, the prosecutor said in court on Wednesday. The details came to light during the first questioning of the suspect in court.

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 gunman. On Sunday night, three football players were killed in the violence, while one player and another student were injured.

The suspect, a former soccer player, appeared via video link from a local jail for Wednesday’s court hearing. He pleaded not guilty to the numerous charges against him and said he planned to hire a lawyer. The judge ordered him to be held without bail and appointed a public defender to represent him until he obtained a private lawyer.

University officials and police said the 22-year-old suspect joined a group of about twenty others on a Sunday trip from the Charlottesville campus to see art in the nation’s capital, about 120 miles away. When their bus returned to campus, authorities said the suspect opened fire, killing Lavel Davis Jr. D’Sean Perry and Devin Chandler.

From left, college football players Devin Chandler, Lavel Davis Jr.  and D'Sean Perry are seen in a combined photo of undated photos provided by the University of Virginia Athletics.
From left, college football players Devin Chandler, Lavel Davis Jr. and D’Sean Perry are seen in a combined photo of undated photos provided by the University of Virginia Athletics.

University of Virginia Athletics via AP


One witness told police that the suspect pointed a gun at Chandler, shot him while he slept, and Chandler slid to the floor, Hingeley said.

A witness said the suspect was “aiming at specific people” rather than firing accidentally, according to Hingeley.

The officers who provided assistance found Chandler and Perry dead on the bus, Hingeley said. Davis died of his injuries in hospital, he said.

A public defender appointed to represent the suspect did not comment on the substance of the allegations on Wednesday. She also declined to comment outside of court.

The judge has set a December hearing in the case.

Authorities said the suspect was able to flee the scene of the shooting, beginning a manhunt and a 12-hour campus lockdown before being detained elsewhere in the state late Monday morning. The suspect was charged with three counts of second-degree m*rder, two counts of malicious wounding and additional weapons charges.

The violence at the state’s flagship public university sparked days of mourning among students and faculty, the wider Charlottesville community, and other supporters. Classes resumed on Wednesday.

University president Jim Ryan said on Monday that authorities did not “fully understand” the motives behind the shooting. Court papers filed so far in the case have not provided any additional information, and Hingeley did not address the possible motive on Wednesday.

In a video statement posted on Facebook on Wednesday evening, Ryan said: “It is possible, and possibly likely, that we will never find a single thing that explains this. It’s also possible that we’ll never really understand why it happened.”

Ryan said the school “invites an external review of the university’s interaction with the suspect and whether we did everything we could to prevent or avoid this tragedy.”

Flowers were left outside Scott Stadium at a makeshift memorial to the three killed University of Virginia football players on November 14, 2022 in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Flowers were left outside Scott Stadium at a makeshift memorial to the three killed University of Virginia football players on November 14, 2022 in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Win McNamee/Getty paintings


Also Wednesday, school announced that he is canceling his final home game of the season scheduled for Saturday against Coastal Carolina. Ryan said on Wednesday night that a memorial service would instead be held on Saturday “in honor of the lives” of the three footballers who were killed, as well as two other students who were injured.

By announcing the appeal, the university said in a press release that a decision has yet to be made on whether UVA will participate in the final game of the season on November 26 against Virginia Tech in Blacksburg.

The suspect was a member of the football team during the 2018 season, according to athletics director Carl Williams.

In interviews, his father expressed confusion and amazement and apologized to the families of the victims.

Of the two hospitalized students, one was released from the hospital on Tuesday, according to Eric Swensen, a health system spokesman.

Family members of Mike Hollins, a runner on the team, said he underwent a second surgery on Tuesday.

In her first television interview since the shooting, Hollins’ mother, Brenda Hollins told CBS News that her son doesn’t yet know that three of his friends and teammates have died.

In court on Wednesday, Hingeley also reviewed the suspect’s criminal record. In February 2021, he was charged in Chesterfield County with possession of a concealed firearm without a license and later received a 12-month suspended sentence, Hingeley said.

At the time of his arrest, the suspect had two outstanding arrest warrants in connection with a hit-and-run with damage to property and reckless driving from St. Petersburg. He was convicted on both counts and also received a 12-month suspended sentence for both, Hingeley said.

The university said the suspect’s failure to report a misdemeanor conviction for a concealed weapon was considered in his ongoing assessment by the threat assessment team. The university initially said its student affairs office escalated the suspect’s case in late October to the University Judiciary Committee, a student-led body that could take disciplinary action. But late Tuesday night, a spokesperson confirmed that the university had in fact not escalated the report and was working on it.

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