By Brendan O’Brien and Tyler Clifford
(Reuters) – A suspect in a shooting at the University of Virginia that left three members of the University of Virginia football team dead was in custody on Monday, hours after he allegedly opened fire on a bus full of students returning from a field trip.
University police said during a news conference that the suspect, student Christopher Darnell Jones, 22, was arrested hours after the shooting that unfolded at 10:30 p.m. on Sunday (0330 GMT on Monday) at the school in Charlottesville, Virginia, attended by 25,000 students.
Minutes after the shooting, school officials issued alerts on social media telling students and staff to shelter in place with one tweet saying to “RUN HIDE FIGHT.” The sprawling campus remained on alert throughout the night and morning as law enforcement officers conducted a massive manhunt for Jones.
University President Jim Ryan identified the slain students as Devin Chandler, Lavel Davis and D’Sean Perry.
Chandler and Perry died on the scene, while Davis died of his wounds at a hospital. Two other students were wounded and taken to UVA Medical Center, where one is in good condition and another in critical condition, University Police Chief Tim Longo said.
The shooting unfolded on a bus full of students after it pulled into a parking garage on campus, Ryan said. The students had just returned from a class field trip to see a play in Washington, D.C.
Jones was armed with a handgun, Longo said.
Jones, who was apprehended off campus, was held on three counts of second-degree murder and three counts of using a handgun in the commission of a felony, Longo said. It was unclear how he was taken into custody.
Jones, who was listed as a player on the school’s football team in 2018, came to the attention of the University of Virginia’s threat assessment team in the fall of 2022, according to Longo. In September 2022, the Office of Student Affairs reported to the team that it received information Jones had made a comment about possessing a gun to a person that was unaffiliated with the university, though no threat was made.
During an investigation, the person said they never saw the gun, and Jones’ roommate reported that he never saw the presence of a weapon.
The investigation was later closed because the witnesses would not participate with the process, he said.
Ryan said in a letter posted on social media hours after the shooting that he was “heartbroken,” and added that classes were canceled for the day.
“This is a message any leader hopes never to have to send, and I am devastated that this violence has visited the University of Virginia,” he wrote.
The shooting was the latest episode of gun violence on U.S. college and high school campuses. The bloodshed has fueled debate over tighter restrictions on access to guns in the United States, where the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment guarantees the right to bear arms.
A 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, about 150 miles (241 km) southwest of Charlottesville, left 33 people dead, including the shooter, and 23 injured in one of the deadliest college mass shootings in U.S. history.
(This story has been corrected to add Davis’ name in fifth paragraph)
(Reporting by Jyoti Narayan in Bengaluru and Brendan O’Brien in Chicago; Editing by Toby Chopra, Chizu Nomiyama, Jonathan Oatis and Aurora Ellis)