UVA Shooting: Special counsel appointed to review deadly rampage, school response

An outside special counsel will conduct a review of the University of Virginia campus shooting that left three students dead and two others injured earlier this week, university and state officials announced Thursday.

In a letter, University of Virginia President Jim Ryan and University Rector Whitt Clement asked the state’s attorney general to appoint outside counsel to investigate both UVA’s response to the Sunday shooting, as well as, the efforts it undertook prior to the violence to assess the potential threat of the suspect.

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"After a tragedy of this nature, it is important for the affected institution to take a hard look at what circumstances led up to the event and, how the University responded in the moment," Clement said in a statement. "Once an external review commences, we expect it to be the central avenue by which we gain a deeper understanding about what led to this tragic event."

Christopher Darnell Jones Jr. (Henrico County Sheriff’s Office)

Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares, who can appoint special counsel to serve state agencies under certain circumstances, granted UVA’s request for the outside probe.

"A public report will be shared with students, families, the larger UVA community, and government officials at the appropriate time," Miyares spokesperson Victoria LaCivita said in a statement. "The Attorney General will work with deliberate speed while ensuring that all necessary resources remain devoted to the criminal investigation being conducted by state and local authorities."

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In its request, UVA asked that the probe also "review all relevant University policies and procedures and make recommendations if opportunities for improvement or needs for change are identified."

The suspect, student and former football player Christopher Darnell Jones Jr., faces second-degree murder and other charges in the Sunday night shooting, which broke out on a bus returning from a field trip in Washington and set off a manhunt and 12-hour campus lockdown. Jones, 23, is currently being held without bond.

UVA football players D'Sean Perry (l) Devin Chandler (m) Lavel Davis Jr. (r) were killed Monday night when police say fellow student Christopher Darnell Jones Jr. opened fire in a bus on the University of Virginia campus.

In addition to the independent review into the incident, a criminal investigation led by Virginia State Police (VSP) is also underway.

According to an update released by investigators on Thursday, Jones Jr. traveled to D.C. with classmates and his professor on Sunday, November 13, to attend a theater performance at the Atlas Performing Arts Center. Following the performance, the students and professor ate dinner in the city, before getting on their chartered bus back to UVA's campus. The bus arrived at UVA's Culbreth Garage on The Grounds around 10:15 p.m., and as students were getting up to leave the bus, Jones produced a gun and started firing.

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Investigators believe Jones then continued to fire additional shots as he ran off the bus, and left the area in his black Dodge Durango. Jones was eventually apprehended the following morning in Henrico County. Investigators are still working to learn more about what Jones was doing between the time he fled the shooting scene and his apprehension.

Police say a gun was recovered nearby the shooting scene after the incident. No firearms were recovered inside the bus. A search warrant on Jones’ residence in Charlottesville, led to investigators finding a rifle and a handgun. All firearms have been turned over as evidence to the ATF for processing.

On Wednesday, a prosecutor revealed during Jones’ first court appearance, that a witness told police the gunman targeted specific victims, shooting one as he slept. Authorities have not addressed a possible motive, and neither Jones nor his attorney addressed the charges in court.

Football players Lavel Davis Jr., D’Sean Perry and Devin Chandler were killed in the violence. A female student who was injured has since been discharged from a hospital. Football player Mike Hollins, who was also injured, underwent surgery and is still recovering in the hospital.

Hollins was "progressing positively" on Thursday and will hopefully begin to take some steps, according to Joe Gipson, a family spokesperson.

UVA's president first announced that the school would pursue an outside investigation in a video posted to social media Wednesday night. In that message, Ryan also said the university would host a memorial service Saturday to honor the lives of the victims, as well as the two people injured. UVA announced Wednesday that it had canceled its scheduled Saturday game against Coastal Carolina.

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He also committed to sharing the results of any investigation.

The university said earlier this week that Jones drew the attention of the university’s threat-assessment team this fall in the context of a "potential hazing issue." UVA has declined to elaborate on the nature of the possible hazing incident, though athletics director Carla Williams said she wasn’t aware of any connection with the football program.

During its threat-assessment review, university officials began investigating a report that Jones had a gun and ended up discovering Jones had previously been tried and convicted of a misdemeanor concealed weapons violation in 2021, which he had failed to report, according to a statement.

The school initially said it "escalated his case for disciplinary action" on Oct. 27. But a spokesman, Brian Coy, revised the timeline Tuesday night. He said that likely due to either a human or technical error, the report had not actually been transmitted to the University Judiciary Committee, a student-run body, until Tuesday night after the shooting.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.