CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — A 22-year-old UVA student has been charged with murder in the deaths of three of his classmates. Prosecutors are alleging he targeted his victims, including shooting one of them while they slept.
Christopher Darnell Jones Jr. appeared virtually in front of an Albemarle County judge Wednesday morning. The Albemarle County, Virginia prosecutor says a witness reported Jones shot fellow UVA student Devin Chandler in his sleep on a bus while returning from a class trip to see a play in D.C. The witness reportedly added Jones targeted the other four students he shot and that it did not appear random.
While prosecutors read the names of the shooting victims, Jones, appearing by remote video from the Albemarle County jail, stopped looking at the camera, looked down and rubbed his head.
"We are all grieving and devastated by these events in our community," said Commonwealth's attorney James Hingeley. "All of us in this community care for the victim’s families. We wish for the speedy recovery for those being treated at the hospital."
Jones is being held without bond at the detention center, and his next court date is Dec. 8. He was appointed a public defender and has yet to enter a plea in the case.
As first reported by WUSA9 Tuesday, and repeated by the Commonweatlh's attorney in court, this was not Jones' first brush with the law.
In August 2020, Jones failed to stop at the scene of a Petersburg, Virginia car crash causing more than $1,000 in damage according to court documents. He was arrested on felony charges in February 2021 by Chesterfield County, Virginia police during a traffic stop.
"On Feb. 22, 2021, in the area of Boisseau Street and Third Avenue, officers stopped a vehicle because its registration did not come back on file," Chesterfield County Police spokesperson Elizabeth Caroon. "During the stop, the driver of the vehicle, Christopher D. Jones Jr., was found to be in possession of a concealed handgun without a permit. He was also found to be wanted on two outstanding charges from Petersburg. Jones was taken into custody for the two outstanding warrants and charged with misdemeanor carrying a concealed weapon without a permit – first offense."
Two months later, Jones failed to appear in court. In June 2021, Jones was found guilty, paid a $100 fine, and received a 12-month suspended jail sentence. He was given another 12-month suspended jail sentence for the felony “failure to stop at an accident.”
In September, UVA's Office of Student Affairs reviewed a “potential hazing issue” involving Jones. UVA officials said they discovered a prior gun conviction during their internal investigation of the hazing incident. The university said Jones was required to inform it about his conviction but did not.
According to Virginia law, Jones needed no permit to own and open carry a firearm in Virginia; permits are required for concealed carry. However, guns are forbidden anywhere on the UVA campus.
"The University has taken appropriate administrative charges through the university's judiciary counsel and that matter is still pending adjudication," UVA Police Chief Tim Longo said.
Dance’s Sporting Goods, in the Richmond area, said they sold Jones two firearms in February: a 9mm handgun and a AR-556 rifle.
WUSA9 cross checked with Jones’ court records and other attempted gun purchases at the same store and found:
- A 2018 attempt to buy a handgun that was rejected for being underage
- A 2021 attempt to buy a rifle rejected for failing a background check (one month after he was found guilty of illegal possession of a concealed weapon
The successful 2022 purchase happened immediately after his 12-month suspended jail sentence ended for the concealed weapons charge.