UVA shooting suspect previously arrested with semiautomatic weapon, reportedly failed background check

University of Virginia student shooting suspect Christopher Darnell Jones was previously arrested during a traffic stop while in possession of a semiautomatic weapon and reportedly failed a background check to buy guns.

Jones, a UVA student who walked onto the football team his freshman year but never played a game, was ordered held without bail in connection to the murders of three active UVA football players, Devin Chandler, Lavel Davis and D’Sean Perry, as well the wounding of surviving victims, active UVA football player Michael Hollins Jr. and Marlee Morgan, a sophomore at the university. 

Records show that Jones was caught carrying a concealed 9mm semiautomatic pistol during a traffic stop in Chesterfield County, Virginia, on Feb. 22, 2021. Police said officers pulled him over near Boisseau Street and Third Avenue because the registration for the vehicle Jones was driving did not come back on file.

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He was found in possession of the gun and did not have a permit, police said. 

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Officers found Jones was also wanted in Petersburg, Virginia, on two outstanding charges of failing to stop for an accident, resulting in more than $1,000 in damages, and reckless driving for an incident that occurred on Aug. 9, 2020, The Daily Progress, a newspaper published out of Charlottesville, Virginia, reported. 

Jones was taken into custody on the outstanding warrants.

He was also charged with carrying a concealed weapon without a permit and was later convicted in Chesterfield General District Court of that misdemeanor offense on June 10, 2021. 

Jones was fined $100 and received a 12-month sentence, which was suspended. 

Jones’ gun buying history and three prior failed attempts to buy firearms were also revealed on Wednesday. 

Jones successfully bought two guns from Dance’s Sporting Goods in Colonial Heights, Virginia, this year, according to store owner, Marlon Dance, who issued a statement to The Daily Progress. 

“There was nothing noteworthy about these purchases,” Dance said. 

Jones bought a rifle on Feb. 19 and a Glock 45 9mm pistol with an additional magazine on July 8.

Jones had previously attempted to buy guns from the same store but was denied three times. 

Dance said those attempts were reported to state authorities. On Dec. 31, 2018, Jones attempted to buy a handgun before he was 21 and could legally purchase one. He tried again in 2019. 

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“Both attempted purchases were forwarded to the Virginia State Police for further action,” Dance said. 

On July 8, 2021, Jones attempted to buy a Smith & Wesson M&P15-22, .22-caliber rifle. 

The background check failed due to a pending felony charge against Jones for the accident in Petersburg, according to the gun store owner.

On Oct. 28, 2021, Jones pleaded no contest to a reduced charge of “not reporting an accident under $1,000.” He received another 12-month sentence, which was suspended.

Jones also pleaded no contest to reckless driving, The Daily Progress reported. Because the felony charge was downgraded to a misdemeanor, Jones could and did legally buy guns in 2022, the newspaper said. 

The two suspended 12-month sentences came from two separate jurisdictions.

Police said Jones allegedly used a handgun to carry out what witnesses described as a targeted shooting on a charter bus Sunday night as it returned to an on-campus parking garage from a class field trip to Washington, D.C. to see a play. It is not clear if that same gun was purchased at Dance’s Sporting Goods.

More than 500 students remained sheltered in place during a 12-hour manhunt and search of the school grounds. Jones was apprehended off campus in Henrico, Virginia. 

In a video statement on Wednesday, UVA President Jim Ryan announced a memorial service will be held in lieu of the last home game Saturday to honor the victims at 3:30 p.m. in John Paul Jones Arena. Ryan also said he welcomed an “external review” into the college’s handling of Jones before the shooting. 

“The criminal investigation is under way, and we are also inviting an external review with respect to the university’s interactions with the suspect and whether we did all we could to prevent or avoid this tragedy,” Ryan said. “This will likely take a while, but we will share and act upon what we ultimately learn. It’s possible, and perhaps likely, that we will never find one single thing that will explain this. It may also be that we never truly understand why this happened. But what we learn, we will share.”

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The UVA threat assessment team reportedly heard from an undisclosed person in September of this year that Jones told someone he had a gun. UVA bans all firearms on campus regardless of concealed carry permit status. 

Police said Jones also faced a hazing investigation, but the probe was later dropped because witnesses did not want to cooperate in the process. 

Jones was also on UVA’s threat assessment team’s radar over an alleged criminal incident involving a weapons violation that happened outside Charlottesville in February 2021. Jones was facing pending administrative charges through the university’s judiciary council for failing to report the matter to the university, as is required of students.

On Wednesday, Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., reportedly encouraged UVA and state officials to form an independent panel of experts to review the shooting. As governor of Virginia at the time, Kaine did the same following the 2007 mass shooting at Virginia Tech.

Meanwhile, Hollins, the UVA junior running back who remains in critical but stable condition after two surgeries, reportedly does not know that his three fellow teammates and close friends have died. 

Speaking to CBS News Tuesday, his mother, Brenda Hollins, said he initially “made it off the bus” unscathed but “went back to help his friends and was shot.” 

She said that her son is unable to speak but communicates by writing on paper. The mother said he spelled out the names or letters of the names of his three friends and “was taking the marker and beating on it because he wants to know.” She said she has not brought herself to tell him yet at this stage of Hollins’ recovery. 

The second surviving victim has since been released from the hospital. 

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