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UVa student charged in deaths of 3 football players shot one victim in his sleep, prosecutor says

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — A University of Virginia student charged with fatally shooting three football players after a field trip over the weekend shot one of the victims while he was sleeping and appeared to be aiming at “certain people,” prosecutors said Wednesday.

Christopher Darnell Jones Jr., 22, appeared via video link from jail for his first court appearance Wednesday morning. No bond was set.

Jones appeared emotionless, dressed in a black and white jail uniform, during the hearing. He was appointed a defense attorney on an interim basis and said he plans on seeking private counsel.

“I will be seeking my own counsel,” he told the court.

Prosecutor James Hingeley from the Albemarle County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office described facts in the case, noting all five individuals were shot. 

He said Jones shot victim Devin Chandler while he was sleeping, according to a witness, and he slid onto the floor. 

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

Jones has been charged with three counts of second-degree murder, five counts of use of a firearm in the commission of a felony and two counts of malicious wounding in connection with the campus carnage, court records show.

Hingeley also spoke in court about Jones’ previous criminal history. Jones was arrested Feb. 22, 2021, in Chesterfield County, Virginia, on a concealed weapons violation, the prosecutor said. Jones was convicted on the charge on June 10, 2021, and given a 12-month suspended sentence, Hingeley said.

At the time of his arrest in Chesterfield County, Jones had outstanding warrants for hit-and-run and reckless driving out of Petersburg, Virginia, Hingeley said. Jones was sentenced to a 12-month suspended sentence on each of the charges on Oct. 18, 2021, Hingeley said.

University officials admitted Tuesday they learned of Jones’ conviction on the weapons charge around mid-September and did not start a disciplinary process against him.

Jones next court date is set for Dec. 8.

Chandler, D’Sean Perry and Lavel Davis Jr. were killed in the Sunday night shooting. Two other students were wounded. One remained hospitalized in serious condition and another was being discharged Tuesday, University of Virginia Health spokesperson Eric Swensen said. 

The shooting happened around 10:30 p.m. Sunday, after Jones and about two dozen classmates had returned to campus from a field trip to see a play in Washington, D.C., university spokesperson Brian Coy has said.

Gunfire was reported at a parking garage near the school’s drama building when the students got back to campus, officials said.

The shooter fled, prompting a manhunt and a shelter-in-place order that lasted about 12 hours.

Henrico County police apprehended the suspect just before 11 a.m. Monday in Richmond, about 75 miles southeast of the Charlottesville campus.

More coverage of the deadly University of Virginia shooting

The gun violence has devastated the university community. University officials canceled classes Tuesday and offered counselors and therapy dogs.

Jones’ father said he’s in shock by the violence and that his son recently told him some people were “picking on him,” but didn’t go into details.

His father, Christopher Darnell Jones Sr., told NBC affiliate WWBT of Richmond, Virginia, “I can’t believe it was him. I still can’t believe it now.”

He said the last time he talked to his son was a month ago. 

The University of Virginia canceled its final home football game of the season Wednesday in the wake of the shooting. Perry was a linebacker and Chandler and Davis Jr. were both wide receivers.

The suspect was listed on the 2018 roster shared on the Cavaliers website, and his profile notes he did not appear in any games. He also was not on the roster in any following seasons.

Antonio Planas reported from Charlottesville, Marlene Lenthang reported from New York.

David K. Li, The Associated Press and Liz Brown-Kaiser contributed.

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