CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – The suspect in the shooting rampage that left three University of Virginia students dead and two others wounded was ordered held without bond Wednesday during a videoconference in Albemarle District Court.
The eight charges against Christopher Darnell Jones Jr., including three for second-degree murder and use of a firearm in commission of a felony, were read aloud by Judge Kenneth Andrew Sneathern.
Jones was not asked to enter a plea and has been given until his next court appearance on Dec. 8 to hire legal counsel. A public defender has been appointed in the interim.
Prosecutors said in the hearing that a witness on the bus where the shootings took place identified him to investigators.
The witness told authorities he or she saw Jones point a gun at Devin Chandler and shoot him while he was sleeping, prosecutors said. Chandler was among those who died. The shootings were targeted, not random, the witnesses reportedly said.
Jones’ criminal history was read aloud in the courtroom, including an arrest Feb. 22, 2021, on a concealed weapons charge and a separate charge for hit-and-run/reckless driving, both of which resulted in suspended sentences.
Jones, a former player on the school’s football team, was one of about two dozen students who traveled by bus on a class field trip to Washington, D.C. He is accused of opening fire as the bus returned to campus.
Jones was arrested Monday in Henrico County, Virginia, near Richmond. The University of Virginia’s campus was under lockdown for 12 hours as police searched for the shooter.
Authorities have not determined a motive for the attack.
PREVIOUS UPDATES:Suspect was on field trip with victims
►UVA students returned to their class schedules Wednesday after two days without classes.
►The UVA home football game scheduled for Saturday against Coastal Carolina was canceled Wednesday. The school said a decision on whether the team will play its final game of the season Nov. 26 against archrival Virginia Tech in Blacksburg has not been made.
►The Atlantic Coast Conference said a moment of silence will be observed before league football games this weekend and all its players will wear a helmet decal in support of UVA.
Suspect twice failed background checks while trying to buy guns
Jones purchased two firearms from a sporting goods store in the Petersburg, Virginia, area earlier this year, but it remains unclear whether either of them was used in the shooting. The store owner said in an email to The Progress-Index, a member of the USA TODAY Network, that Jones tried to purchase weapons on two other occasions, once in 2018 and again last year. He failed both background checks and did not obtain the weapons.
Jones bought the firearms in separate purchases, said Marlon Dance, owner of Dance’s Sporting Goods in Colonial Heights. According to Dance’s records, Jones purchased a Ruger AR-556 rifle on Feb. 19 and a Glock pistol with an additional magazine on July 8. He passed both background checks.
Dance said Jones failed the background check trying to buy a handgun on Dec. 31, 2018, because he was under 21. Jones failed a check last year because he was facing a felony charge of failing to stop for an accident in which he was involved. Jones ultimately entered a plea of no contest to a charge of not reporting a traffic accident – a misdemeanor, so Jones was eligible to purchase guns in Virginia.
– Bill Atkinson, The Progress-Index
Suspect worked at local Boys & Girls Clubs
Jones is a former part-time staff member at Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Virginia who had worked for the group since September, the agency’s CEO said in an email to USA TODAY. Kate Lambert said the agency was “devastated” by the shooting.
“Our commitment to our Club members, their families and our community remains steadfast and unwavering,” she said.
Students returned to classes Wednesday
After two days of cancellations, UVA students and faculty returned to classes Wednesday, university officials announced. Undergraduate students will not be required to do graded assignments or take exams before Thanksgiving break.
“We recognize that there may be unique needs for our graduate and professional schools,” UVA President Jim Ryan said in a message to the university. “Faculty in these schools should look to school leadership for further instruction. We have also asked all faculty to be as flexible as possible with classes, in-person attendance and coursework.”
The university is offering drop-in counseling, mental health telehealth services and therapy dogs for campus community members grappling with the tragedy, What happened?
A group of students traveled about 120 miles by bus on a class field trip to watch a play in Washington, then returned to campus. Police said Jones opened fire inside the bus as the group arrived around 10:30 p.m. Officers responding to a report of shots fired found the bodies on the bus, university Police Chief Timothy Longo said.
OPINION: Who were the victims?
Juniors D’Sean Perry, Lavel Davis Jr. and Devin Chandler, all UVA football players, were killed. Running back Mike Hollins, also a third-year player, was one of two people wounded in the attack, his mother said.
Hollins had surgery Tuesday, according to his mother, Brenda. She asked on Twitter for prayer for her son and “for all of the families that are going through this horrific tragedy.”
UVA head football coach Tony Elliott described the victims Tuesday as “three beautiful, young human beings.” He said wide receiver Lavel Davis Jr. was a caring teammate who was passionate about what he believed in, linebacker D’Sean Perry was cultured with an artistic bent, and wide receiver Devin Chandler had a bubbly personality.
Contributing: Jorge L. Ortiz, USA TODAY