University of Virginia student shooting suspect Christopher Darnell Jones Jr. is to make his first court appearance Tuesday, after the 22-year-old ex-football player’s parents spoke out for the first time since five of their son’s former teammates were shot, including three fatally, on a charter bus Sunday night.
“I can’t believe it was him,” Christopher Darnell Jones Sr. told WWBT. “I still can’t believe it now.”
“He got on the football team at Petersburg High School he excelled at that,” the suspect’s father said, speaking of the younger Jones. “He excelled at everything. He was everyone’s friend, everybody loved Chris, and he had a movie star smile he would flash.”
Jones Sr., however, did say he noticed his son “was really paranoid” when they last spoke.
“He had some problems the last time I talked to him. He said some people were picking on him or whatever, he didn’t know how to handle it and I told him just go to school, don’t pay it any mind,” the father told the outlet Monday. “He was really paranoid when I talked to him about something, but he wouldn’t tell me everything. He was a very sensitive young man.”
Jones Jr. was apprehended after 11 a.m. on Monday following a 12-hour manhunt. He is held at Henrico jail on three counts of second-degree murder and three counts of using a handgun in commission of a felony and has a video arraignment scheduled Tuesday in Albemarle County General District Court.
Police had sought him in connection to a shooting that erupted on a charter bus at the on-campus Culbreth parking garage before 10:30 p.m. Sunday night as students were returning from a class field trip to see a play and have a meal together. Three UVA football players – identified as Devin Chandler, Lavel Davis and D’Sean Perry – were killed while another two were hospitalized.
Before the arrest, U.S. Marshals with their guns drawn descended on Jones Jr.’s mother’s home at about 10 a.m. Monday, looking for the ex-UVA football player turned shooting suspect, but he was not there.
WWBT reported that Jones Jr.’s mother could be seen sobbing in a van with her other children close by.
The mother told the outlet that she had spoken to Jones Jr. earlier Sunday and that her son seemed normal and expressed that he was excited to celebrate his upcoming 23rd birthday on Nov. 17.
When she learned of the shooting Sunday night, as UVA began issuing regular alerts instructing hundreds of students who remained in buildings on the university grounds to shelter in place, Jones Jr.’s mother said that she was unable to reach him by phone. His father said they had last spoken about a month ago.
“He came to the house he did his laundry, we sat and talked, and he seemed like he was doing really well,” Jones Sr. told WWBT. “When we finally had a chance to talk, he said there were some people there who were giving him a hard time, but he still was upbeat, and he was positive. I don’t know what happened between then and now to cause this to happen.”
The shelter-in-place order was lifted at about 10:30 a.m. Monday, after an extensive, building-by-building search of the UVA grounds in Charlottesville turned up empty. Jones was taken into custody less than an hour later in eastern Henrico, Virginia – with news of his arrest breaking during a UVA press conference.
Jones Sr. said that he divorced Jones Jr.’s mother when their son was still a young child. But when the younger Jones stopped getting along with his mother during his teen years, he moved in with his father and grandmother. Jones Jr. hadn’t been on the UVA football team for more than a year.
UVA police said he faced a prior hazing investigation, but the probe was closed because witnesses would not cooperate in the process. Jones Jr. also was facing administrative charges for failing to report, as required of students at UVA, a prior criminal incident involving a concealed weapon violation that occurred outside the city of Charlottesville in February 2021. The matter was still pending.
No motive for the shooting has been announced.
“What happened? Why did it have to get this far? He could’ve called me,” his father said Monday following his son’s arrest. “I don’t know why he didn’t call me Saturday. If he had called me Saturday, I think maybe I could have talked him out of some things, maybe, hopefully.”