Prosecutor: Witness told police UVA suspect targeted victims

Sports

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — A witness who saw a University of Virginia student open fire on a bus returning from a field trip described to police how the gunman targeted specific victims — many of them football players — shooting one of them as he slept, a prosecutor said in court Wednesday.

The details emerged during the suspect’s first court appearance, the same day the university announced it was canceling its Saturday football game in the wake of the deadly shooting.

A witness who was shown a photo of the shooting suspect, Christopher Darnell Jones Jr., identified him as the gunman, the prosecutor said. The violence Sunday night left three football players dead and one player and another student wounded.

Jones, a former football player, appeared by video link from a local jail for the court hearing Wednesday. He did not enter a plea to the numerous charges he faces and said he plans to hire an attorney. A judge ordered him held without bond and appointed a public defender to represent him until he secures private counsel.

University officials and police have said Jones, 22, joined a group of about two dozen others on a field trip Sunday from the Charlottesville campus to see a play in the nation’s capital, about 120 miles (195 kilometers) away. When their bus arrived back on campus, authorities have said Jones opened fire, killing Lavel Davis Jr., D’Sean Perry and Devin Chandler.

Jones — who police have said was able to flee the shooting scene, setting off a manhunt and 12-hour campus lockdown — faces three counts of second-degree murder, two counts of malicious wounding and additional gun-related charges.

The violence at the state’s flagship public university has set off days of mourning among students and faculty, the broader Charlottesville community and other supporters. Classes resumed Wednesday, and the school also announced that it was canceling its final home game of the season scheduled for the weekend against Coastal Carolina.

During Wednesday’s hearing, Albemarle County Commonwealth’s Attorney James Hingeley gave a brief accounting of what police say happened Sunday night after officers responded to a report of shots fired near a parking garage.

One witness told police the suspect pointed the gun at Chandler, shot him as he was sleeping, and Chandler slid to the floor, Hingeley said.

The witness said Jones was “aiming at certain people” and not shooting randomly, according to Hingeley.

Responding officers found Chandler and Perry dead on the bus, Hingeley said. Davis died from his wounds at a hospital, he said.

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 matter have offered no additional insight, and Hingeley did not address a possible motive Wednesday.

The public defender appointed to represent Jones did not address the substance of the charges Wednesday. She also declined comment outside of court.

The judge on Wednesday set a December status hearing in the case. Jones has been in custody since he was arrested in suburban Richmond late Monday morning.

Jones was a member of the football team during the 2018 season, a one-semester walk-on, according to athletics director Carla Williams.

In interviews, his father has expressed confusion and astonishment and apologized to the victims’ families.

Of the two students who were hospitalized, one was discharged from the medical center Tuesday, according to Eric Swensen, a health system spokesperson.

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

In announcing the cancellation of the game, the university said in a news release that no decision has been made yet about whether UVA will participate in its final game of the season Nov. 26 against Virginia Tech in Blacksburg.

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Associated Press writer Sarah Rankin in Richmond, Virginia, contributed to this report.