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Tragedy befalls the University of Virginia football program

Students, teammates and staff alike are reeling following the senseless violence that ravaged the University of Virginia’s football program in the midst of their NCAA season. The Cavaliers, who were 3-7 and coming off of a loss to Pitt on Nov. 12 were looking to turn their season around following their poor start. 

The night after the team’s loss to Pitt on Nov. 13, third-year linebacker D’Sean Perry and third-year wide receivers Lavel Davis Jr. and Devin Chandler were killed by a former football player from the university. Upon returning from a field trip, Christopher Darnell Jones Jr. shot the trio on the bus they had been traveling on while also injuring third-year running back Mike Hollins and fellow student Marlee Morgan. 

Emotions were high at a press conference hosted by leaders within the athletic department, with UVA football head coach Tony Elliott and athletic director Carla Williams fielding initial questions from reporters. The two shared their own experiences with the men, with Elliott painting the group as, “beautiful, young human beings [that had] unbelievable futures ahead of them.”

Elliott announced later after the shooting that the Cavaliers would cancel their final two games of the regular season against Coastal Carolina and rivals Virginia Tech so that the players were able to travel to their fellow teammate’s funerals.

Perry was a third-year linebacker and defensive end out of Gulliver Prep high school in Miami, Florida. Perry will be remembered for his love of art and music. Family, friends and coaches described Perry as a determined and passionate young man with much potential outside the football field to do great things in this world. In his final game, he registered two tackles and was beginning to see the field more often before this tragedy occurred.

Davis Jr. was a third-year wide receiver coming out of Woodland High School in Dorchester, South Carolina. After having an impressive first year in 2020, he missed all of 2021 with a torn ACL but was putting together a good 2022 season. At his service, many talked about his greatness, not only as an athlete but as a person. While at Virginia, he was a member of the Groundskeepers at Virginia, a group focused on racial and social justice on the campus and in the community to help train police officers.

Chandler did not start his career at Virginia and had just transferred to Virginia this past year. He attended William Amos Hough high school in Huntersville, North Carolina and committed to the Wisconsin Badgers, where he played for two years before deciding to transfer closer to home for more playing time. He had not seen the field much this season but was hoping to keep working and play more next season. Many teammates from both Virginia and Wisconsin, including second-year Badgers running back Braelon Allen, expressed their sympathies to his family and the positive impact he made on their lives.

The shooter, Jones Jr., was a former football player at the school in 2018 where he recorded no stats in his one career appearance. Currently, the motive for the shootings is not known and he is currently being held without bond while facing charges of three second-degree murder charges, two malicious bodily injury charges and five counts of use of a firearm in a felony in the first offense. As of now, he has not yet entered a plea of guilty or not guilty.

We have seen an outpouring of support, with multiple fellow college teams wearing decals in remembrance of the three. New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft also lent the team’s plane out so that the teammates of the deceased could travel to their funerals.

As heartbreaking as this story is, there’s hope that there’s room to educate and prepare for these kinds of tragedies. Hopefully, this will help lead to ending the violence at and on school campuses across the United States.

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