A suspected shooter who killed three students and wounded two at a Virginia university was behind bars on Monday night.
Christopher Jones Jr, 22, was taken into custody in suburban Richmond, the state capital after the student and former football player killed at least three students at the University of Virginia (UVA), said UVA police chief Tim Longo.
Jones was taken into custody without incident in suburban Richmond, police said, referring to the Virginia state capital just over 70 miles away from UVA’s Charlottesville campus.
Authorities obtained arrest warrants for Jones charging him with three counts of second-degree murder and three counts of using a handgun in the commission of a felony, Longo said. A motive for the shooting is still unknown.
The shooting took place on Sunday around 10.30pm eastern time in a parking garage on campus after students had returned from seeing a play in Washington DC for a class, said university officials.
All three victims were members of the UVA football team, said the university’s president, Jim Ryan. The victims have been identified as Devin Chandler, Lavel Davis Jr, and D’Sean Perry. Chandler and Davis Jr were both juniors, and Perry was a senior student.
Two other unnamed students were injured during the attack, with one in critical condition, said Ryan.
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 had been enforced on campus as police searched for the suspect, but has since been lifted, said the university’s emergency management system.
The killings happened at a time when the nation is on edge from a string of mass shootings during the last six months, including one that killed 19 students and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas; a shooting at a Fourth of July parade in a Chicago suburb that killed seven people and wounded more than 30; and a shooting at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, that killed 10 people and wounded three.
Students who were told to shelter in place as police searched for the gunman described terrifying hours as they hid in closets, dorm rooms, libraries and apartments. They listened to police scanners and tried to remember everything they were taught as children during active-shooter drills.
Shannon Lake, a third-year student from Crozet, Virginia, ended up spending 12 hours with friends in a lab room, much of the time in a storage closet. She thought a lot about the 2012 Sandy Hook elementary school shooting, which left 20 children and six educators dead.
“It just kind of brought all those feelings back up again, and reminded us that this is still an ongoing issue in our country, which is really sad,” Lake said.
Elizabeth Paul, a student from northern Virginia, was working at a computer in the library when she got a call from her mom, who had received word about the shooting. Paul said she initially brushed off any concern, thinking it was probably something minor. She realized she needed to take it seriously when her computer lit up with a warning about an active shooter.
“I think it said, ‘Run. Hide. Fight,’” she said.
Paul said she stayed huddled with several others in the library for about 12 hours. She spent most of the night on the phone with her mom.
“Not even talking to her the whole time necessarily, but she wanted the line to be on so that if I needed something she was there,” she said.
It was not immediately clear whether Jones, the suspect, had an attorney or when he would make his first court appearance.
Jones had once been on the football team, but he had not been part of it for at least a year, Longo said. The UVA football website listed him as a team member during the 2018 season and said he did not play in any games.
Hours after Jones was arrested, first-year head football coach Tony Elliott sat alone outside the athletic building used by the team, at times with his head in his hands. He said the victims “were all good kids” and that he would talk more about them “when the time is right”.
Jones came to the attention of the university’s threat-assessment team this fall after a person unaffiliated with the school reported a remark Jones apparently made about possessing a gun, Longo said.
Another campus was also grieving an act of violence on Monday. Four students at the University of Idaho were found dead on Sunday at a home near the university, said university officials.
Police responded to an emergency call about an unconscious person around noon when they discovered the four fatalities.
“It is with deep sadness that I share with you that the university was notified today of the death of four University of Idaho students living off-campus believed to be victims of homicide,” said the university president, Scott Green, in a statement that was reported by CNN.
Police have launched an investigation.
The killings at Virginia’s campus on Monday reverberated in particular at the University of Miami, whose football team is a conference opponent of Virginia. In 2006, Miami football player Bryan Pata was shot to death outside his apartment.
Prosecutors last year charged a teammate of Pata with murdering him amid a feud between the suspect and victim. Pata’s brother, Edwin, is now an assistant coach who helps recruit players to Miami’s team, and the killings in Virginia plunged him and the rest of the squad into mourning Monday, the Miami Herald reported.