Former Dorchester Co. football player dies in University of Virginia shooting; Suspect in custody
Suspect came to the attention of the university’s threat assessment team in the fall of 2022, police said
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WCSC) - Authorities have confirmed a former Woodland High School student was one of three University of Virginia students killed Sunday night in a shooting on campus.
Lavel Davis Jr., a wide receiver with the UVA Cavaliers, died from his injuries in the shooting, University President Jim Ryan said during a news conference Monday morning.
The suspect in the shooting, identified as Christopher Darnell Jones Jr., has been taken into custody, authorities said during the news conference. Jones was apprehended off campus, but campus police did not provide further details on the capture.
The shooting happened on Culbreth Road about 10:30 p.m. Sunday. Ryan identified Jones as the suspect in the shooting early Monday morning.
“The shootings occurred on a bus full of students returning from a field trip,” Ryan said. “Three of the victims did not survive.”
He said the other victims were Devin Chandler, a second-year student from Virginia Beach; and D’Sean Perry, a fourth-year student from Miami. All three victims were members of the football team, Ryan said.
READ MORE: UVA provides updates on deadly Culbreth Rd. shooting, suspect in custody
Two other students were wounded in the shooting and were being treated, Ryan said. One was in critical condition and the other was in good condition as of Monday morning, he said.
UVA officials told reporters the students had been on a class field trip to Washington, D.C. to see a play associated with the class.
The families of all victims had been notified and the school was providing assistance.
He announced the college had lifted its shelter-in-place order after “an exhaustive building-by-building search” of the campus.
‘A tremendous loss’: Coaches, friends mourn Davis
Dorchester County School District 4 released a statement on Davis’s death Monday afternoon:
We are deeply saddened at the loss of one of our former Wolverine family members, Lavel Davis Jr. Lavel was an outstanding student-athlete in Dorchester County School District 4, who went on to represent his community at the University of Virginia playing Division 1 football. Lavel’s determination to succeed and devotion to family united those around him and made all those who encountered him better for knowing him. Dorchester School District 4 extends our deepest condolences to Lavel’s family, friends, teammates and his community. Please continue to keep the Davis family and the families of the other victims in your thoughts and prayers. This is a tremendous loss; Lavel’s legacy will never be forgotten.
Woodland High School Wide Receiver Coach and Head Baseball Coach Keith Lowman said Davis would never tell anyone no.
“If somebody wanted to work with him on something, he’d do it. If you ask him to help, ‘Hey, Lavel, can you help me move those boxes?’ ‘Yup, gotcha.’ He just did everything right and, you know, it’s tough when someone like that gets taken you know,” Lowman said. “We’re gonna miss him. I checked in with him a week ago just to see how he was doing and it’s gonna be hard not to put on the Virginia game every Saturday and look for him. That was kinda something that was my, not just me but other coaches and people around here, that was kinda our routine, looking for Lavel, talking about Lavel on Sunday when we’re meeting. It’s gonna be tough but we’ll get through it. "
Woodland High School’s athletic director, Tydles Sibert, said he thinks a lot of students should learn from Davis.
“He was a kid that a lot of kids in our community in our schools looked up to,” he said. “What he stood for and what he believed in is what all kids should stand up and believe in.”
Mathis Burnette, who spent five years as head coach of Woodland High School before becoming the athletic director with Stratford High School said on Twitter Monday morning there “are no words to express the grief that the Woodland community is feeling right now.”
“Everything about Lavel Davis was first class and the world is a sadder place because he is gone,” he tweeted. “Prayers for everyone in the Davis family and the Woodland Community.”
Newberry College Tight Ends Coach and Recriting Coordinator Sean Lampkin also posted about Davis on Twitter.
“Saddening, saddening news this morning. God took one of his most kind, humble, loving soldiers off of the battlefield last night,” the tweet states. “Please pray for my family as we are devastated by the passing my cousin Lavel Davis Jr. Love and already miss you, kid.”
The University of Virginia’s official football Twitter account posted a video interview with Davis from 2019:
Davis was a former wide receiver for Woodland High School and earned all-state honors after making 40 catches for 622 yards and seven touchdowns as a senior and was selected to play in South Carolina’s North-South all-star game. He also played basketball and ran track for Woodland High school.
Davis was a junior at UVA, according to the team’s website. In 2020, he appeared in eight of UVA’s 10 games with seven starts, finishing number two in the nation and number one in the ACC with 25.74 yards per reception average, the site states. He did not appear in any games in 2021 because of an injury.
Davis was one of the top prospects in the Lowcountry in 2019 when he made his college commitment to the University of Virginia. Davis said he chose the Cavaliers over Georgia Tech, North Carolina and Central Florida.
Word of suspect’s arrest came during Monday morning news conference
UVA Police Chief Tim Longo said arrest warrants obtained against Jones will charge him with three counts of second-degree murder and three counts of using a handgun in the commission of a felony.
Longo was speaking during a news conference when an officer approached and leaned in to give him a message.
“We’ve just received information that the suspect is in custody,” he said, then paused for several seconds. “Just need a moment to thank God and breathe a sigh of relief.”
He said Jones came to the attention of the university’s threat assessment team in the fall of 2022. He said the school’s Office of Student Affairs reported receiving information that Jones had made a comment about possessing a gun to a person that was unaffiliated with the university. However, the person who reported the comment, to the best of the police department’s knowledge never saw a gun, adding the comment was not made in conjunction with any threat.
Jones had also come to the attention of the threat assessment team because he was involved “in a hazing investigation of some sort,” Longo said.
“I don’t know the facts and circumstances of that investigation. I know that it was eventually closed due to witnesses that would not cooperate with the process,” he said. “But through the course of the threat assessment teams investigation, we learned of a prior criminal incident involving a concealed weapon violation that occurred outside the city of Charlottesville in February of 2021. What’s interesting about that case is he’s, he is required as a student at the University of Virginia to report that and he never did.”
The university, Longo said, has taken “appropriate administrative charges” but said that matter was still pending.
Longo said to his knowledge, the University Police Department had not had contact with Jones, but said that agency was one of many on the threat assessment team.
Longo said he wanted the public to hear that from him in the interest of transparency.
Ryan said Jones was still a student, but as far as he knew had not been on the football team for a year. Jones was listed as a member of the UVA football team in 2018.
Multiple law enforcement agencies said they were coordinating to find and apprehend Jones early Monday morning before news of his capture came in.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said agents were responding to the campus to assist in the investigation.
Classes for Monday have been canceled. Nearby school districts have also canceled classes.
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin has released a statement sending his thoughts and prayers to the UVA community.
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