University of Virginia mourns for campus shooting victims

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – The University of Virginia community mourned on Tuesday as new details emerged both about the three football players killed in a campus shooting this week and the criminal charges the suspect, a former player, faces.

“It feels like it’s a nightmare, to be honest with you. And I’m ready for somebody to pinch me and wake me up and say that this didn’t happen,” university head football coach Tony Elliott said at a news conference Tuesday afternoon.

University officials and police have said a student, Christopher Darnell Jones Jr., 22, joined a group of about two dozen others on a field trip Sunday from the Charlottesville campus to see a play in the nation’s capital, about 120 miles (195 kilometers) away. When their bus arrived back on campus, Jones opened fire, killing the three players and wounding two others, one of them also a football player, authorities said.

Ryan Lynch, a 19-year-old sophomore student on the trip, told Philadelphia TV station KYW the suspect pulled out a gun as they arrived back and pushed one of the now-deceased football players, stating: “You guys are always messing with me.”

“They just kept coming, more and more gunshots – just wouldn’t stop,” Lynch said of the shooting, adding the gunman then “just sort of walked or skipped off the bus.”

The shooting set off panic and a 12-hour campus lockdown amid a manhunt before Jones was captured Monday outside Richmond, the state capital.

University President Jim Ryan said Monday authorities did not have a “full understanding” of the motive or circumstances of the shooting. At Tuesday’s news conference with Elliott, athletics director Carla Williams said she couldn’t address anything related to the criminal investigation. Authorities have also not discussed the firearm or firearms used – what type, how many or where they were obtained.

Jones faces an initial court appearance Wednesday. The prosecutor, Albemarle Commonwealth’s Attorney James Hingeley, said by email Tuesday that besides previously announced second-degree murder and firearms charges, Jones faces two counts of malicious wounding and additional gun-related charges.

Online records did not list an attorney for Jones, who remains in custody. If he is financially eligible for court-appointed counsel, an attorney will be appointed Wednesday, Hingeley wrote, adding there also could be a preliminary bail review.

The university canceled classes Tuesday and made counselors and therapy dogs available as students visited temporary memorials on campus, leaving flowers or other remembrances. Classes were to resume Wednesday though the university said it wouldn’t require undergraduate students to complete any graded assignments or take exams before the Thanksgiving break.

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin ordered flags lowered statewide and made a campus visit, leaving flowers near a memorial at the football stadium. He said he came to pay “deep respects and hopefully take a moment to support these families.”

“It’s beyond anything any parent can possibly imagine. And the first lady and I, our hearts are just broken for these families,” said Youngkin.

The dead were identified as Devin Chandler, Lavel Davis Jr. and D’Sean Perry.

Elliott said they were all “incredible young men with huge aspirations and extremely bright futures.” The coach said he and the players were now channeling their grief into celebrating the victims’ lives, adding, “We were able to transition from the pain to finding a little bit of joy in celebrating the lives of all of Lavel, D’Sean and Devin.”

A campus-wide event honoring the victims was in the works.

On Tuesday evening, a candlelight vigil was held at Westminster Presbyterian Church, and a “Service for Justice and Peace” at University Baptist Church in Charlottesville.

University Baptist’s Senior Minister Matthew Tennant urged action against gun violence, saying, “There’s got to be more than getting together in our houses of worship to pray after someone shoots a bunch of people.”

“When we fix what is wrong, when we work to put an end to gun violence, God will have worked through us,” he said.

Earlier in the day, Williams said she and the coach will consult with players and make a decision soon about Saturday’s home football game against Coastal Carolina.

“We’ll use our best judgment. It will be soon,” she said.

Jones was a member of the football team during the 2018 season, a one-semester walk-on, according to Williams. She said she didn’t believe his membership overlapped with any of the victims – or know if they had any interaction outside the class that took the field trip.

Jones’ father, Chris Jones Sr., told Richmond TV station WTVR he was in disbelief when police called him. “My heart goes out to their families. I don’t know what to say, except I’m sorry,” said Jones Sr. He could not immediately be reached by The Associated Press.

Jones’ mother, Margo Ellis, declined to be interviewed Tuesday when reached by AP. “There’s so much going on,” she said.

Jones drew the attention of the university’s threat-assessment team this fall in the context of a “potential hazing issue,” the university said in a statement.

During that review, university officials heard from a student that Jones commented about having a gun, though that student did not report Jones making any threat, the statement said. University officials investigated and ended up discovering Jones had previously been tried and convicted of a misdemeanor concealed weapons violation in 2021, which he had failed to report, according to the statement.

The school initially said it “escalated his case for disciplinary action” on Oct. 27. But a spokesman, Brian Coy, revised the timeline Tuesday night. He said that likely due to either a human or technical error, the report had not actually been transmitted to the University Judiciary Committee, a student-run body. The university said in a statement it was working to correct the error.

The killings come as the nation recoils from a string of mass shootings over six months. Those included an attack that killed 19 students and two teachers at an Uvalde, Texas, elementary school; a shooting at a Fourth of July parade in a Chicago suburb that killed seven and wounded more than 30; and a shooting at a Buffalo, New York, supermarket that killed 10 people and wounded three.

The University of Virginia, the state’s flagship public university, has endured numerous high-profile tragedies this past decade, including the 2014 disappearance and murder of a student as well as violence inflicted by white supremacists who descended on Charlottesville for “Unite the Right” events in 2017.

“I think U.Va. has weathered a lot in the past. And I think we are an incredibly resilient community,” said Ellie Wilkie, a 21-year-old student who had sheltered in her room on the historic Lawn at the heart of the campus amid the lockdown.

Texas State hires Incarnate Word coach Kinne to lead Bobcats

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Texas State hired Incarnate Word coach G.J. Kinne on Friday to lead a Sun Belt program that has had only one winning season since moving up to the Bowl Subdivision in 2012.

The 34-year-old former Tulsa quarterback has made a fast rise in coaching since ending his professional career in 2017.

After three years as an offensive analyst at SMU, Arkansas and the Philadelphia Eagles, Kinne became offensive coordinator at Hawaii in 2020. He held the same role for UCF in 2021 before landing the head coaching job at FCS Incarnate Word this season.

Incarnate Word is 10-1 and averaging 53 points and 8.3 yards per play, both FCS highs, heading into its playoff game Saturday against Furman. Kinne will remain with Incarnate Word through their playoff run.

“It’s with great honor that I’m accepting the call to be next head football coach of the Texas State Bobcats,” Kinne said. “We are going to play fast, have relentless energy, and when the going gets tough, have the mental confidence to win tight games in the second half and represent the state of Texas. Eat ‘Em Up!”

Texas State fired Jake Spavital last week after the Bobcats won just 13 games in his four seasons.

Kinne signed a five-year contract, the school said. Terms were not immediately released.

“My goal was to hire someone with demonstrated leadership experience, success as a head coach, established relationships with Texas football coaches, and success with recruiting and developing players,” said Texas State President Kelly Damphousse. “I sought a leader with a plan to capitalize on our location in the heart of the best high school football in the country.”

Florida Atlantic hires Tom Herman as football coach

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BOCA RATON, Fla. – Former Texas and Houston head coach Tom Herman will take over at Florida Atlantic as it heads into its first season in the American Athletic Conference.

The hire comes just days after FAU fired Willie Taggart, who went 15-18 in his three seasons with the Owls. Details of the contract with Herman were not immediately available.

“We are incredibly excited to welcome Tom Herman to Paradise,” FAU Director of Athletics Brian White said Thursday. “Throughout the process and the more we talked with Coach Herman, the more it became apparent to me that he was the right person to lead our football program. Beyond his knowledge of the game, which is obvious by his success over the years, he also truly cares about the young people in his program.”

FAU’s final season in Conference USA ended with a 5-7 record and an overtime loss to Western Kentucky. The Owls will be in the American next season.

Herman returns to college football after spending the 2021 season with the Chicago Bears as an offensive analyst.

Herman was 22-4 at Houston, a mark that helped him land the head coaching job at Texas where he went 32-18 with four straight bowl trips in 2017-2020. He also was an offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Ohio State during the Buckeyes’ 2014 national championship season, as well as stops at Iowa State, Rice and Texas State.

“All the pieces are in place at FAU for us to be successful,” Herman said. “There are already great young men on this team, great facilities, a great location, a great recruiting base and great leadership, all of which are important to building a successful program.”