Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares will begin an external review of the fatal shooting at the University of Virginia as new details about the suspect’s attempted gun purchases emerge almost a week after three football players were killed and two others were wounded.
Miyares announced his review Thursday at the request of UVA President Jim Ryan and University Rector Whitt Clement, who wanted “outside special counsel with expertise … to conduct an independent review of the University’s response to the shooting, as well as the efforts the University undertook in the period before the tragedy.”
Victoria LaCivita, Miyares’ spokesperson, said in a release the AG’s office will enlist special counsel to assist in completing the work.
“A public report will be shared with students, families, the larger UVA community, and government officials at the appropriate time,” LaCivita said. “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.”
The AG’s announcement comes as the campus, Charlottesville community and Atlantic Coast Conference universities continue to mourn the deaths of UVA football players Devin Chandler, Lavel Davis Jr. and D’Sean Perry. A memorial service at John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville is scheduled for Saturday afternoon.
The suspect, Christopher Darnell Jones Jr., 22, was denied bond Wednesday. He faces three charges of second-degree murder and three counts of using a handgun in the commission of a felony, UVA Police Chief Timothy Longo Sr. said. He also faces two counts of malicious wounding, each accompanied by a firearm charge.
Jones remains in custody in Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail, online records show, and his next court hearing will be in December, according to Albemarle County Commonwealth’s attorney Jim Hingeley.
Suspect was denied gun purchases twice
Jones attempted to buy a firearm in 2018 and 2021, but neither of the sales or transfers were completed, Dance’s Sporting Goods owner Marlon Dance told CNN.
Jones was under the legal purchasing age of 21 to buy a handgun in 2018 and failed a background check trying to buy a rifle in 2021 due to a pending criminal charge.
“Jones DID NOT receive either of the firearms he attempted to purchase, and both attempted purchases were forwarded to the Virginia State Police for further action,” Dance said in a statement.
He was able to legally purchase firearms afterward, though, purchasing a rifle in February and a 9mm pistol in July, according to the statement. There was “nothing noteworthy” about the 2022 purchases.
It is unclear whether either of the weapons purchased by Jones were used in Sunday’s shooting, but police confirmed that a prior hold on his ability to buy firearms due to an ongoing legal matter in 2021 was dropped.
A pending charge Jones faced “was reduced to a misdemeanor by the court in October 2021, thereby removing the prohibition against future purchases,” Virginia State Police spokesperson Corinne Geller said in a statement.
Jones was also the subject of a gun-related probe by the university’s judicial council prior to the shooting where a student reported Jones “made a comment to him about possessing a gun,” according to university spokesperson Brian Coy. Jones “repeatedly refused to cooperate with University officials” and his case was escalated for further review and possible disciplinary action, Coy said.
Student says shooting took place on the bus
UVA student Ryan Lynch told CNN affiliate KYW-TV she was on the bus where the shooting took place and saw Jones push Lavel Davis Jr.
“After he pushed him, he was like ‘You guys are always messing with me.’ Said something weird like that, but it was very bizarre because they didn’t talk to him the whole trip,” Lynch said.
Lynch then heard gunfire, she told KYW.
“They just kept coming, more and more gunshots,” she said. “We thought he was going to shoot everyone on the bus.”
But “the shooter just kind of walked or, like, skipped off the bus,” Lynch said.
At Wednesday’s court appearance, a witness to the shooting said Devin Chandler, one of the three killed, was shot while sleeping, according to Hingeley, the commonwealth’s attorney.
After a campus lockdown and an hours-long manhunt for the suspected shooter, Jones was spotted driving a vehicle and apprehended by police Monday about 80 miles east of Charlottesville in Henrico County.
Along with the three players who were fatally shot, two others were wounded in the shooting. They were identified by the prosecutor as Michael Hollins and Marlee Morgan.
CNN reached out to the family of Marlee Morgan.
Hollins, who is also a UVA football player, was taken off intubation and moved from the hospital’s intensive care unit, a family friend told CNN on Thursday.
“Mike is doing better today,” Joe Gipson said. “He is in intermediate care and progressing positively. He will hopefully begin to take some steps today.”
A day earlier, Hollins’ family said he had two successful surgeries and asked for the community’s prayers.
“We want to start by thanking God for His grace that continues to guide our family through this unspeakable tragedy. In the last 48 hours, Mike has successfully made it through two surgeries. We want to thank his doctors and care team at University of Virginia Hospital. In the coming days and weeks, Mike will begin the long process of healing,” the statement said.
“As Mike starts down the path toward healing – physically, emotionally and spiritually – the process will take time. We ask that you respect his privacy and continue giving him space to mend.”
CNN’s Travis Caldwell, Amy Simonson and Amanda Musa contributed to this report.