The three University of Virginia students shot dead after returning from a field trip were current members of the football team — and their accused killer a former teammate who “just shot up the bus” they were on, according to the father of one player who was hit in the back.
University President Jim Ryan fought back tears early Monday as he confirmed that Cavaliers linebacker D’Sean Perry and wide receivers Lavel Davis Jr. and Devin Chandler had all been killed in the attack late Sunday.
Two others were also injured — one critically — in the “sad, shocking and tragic day,” Ryan said.
The father, Michael Hollins Sr., said his son was hit in the back as the suspect — identified as the former Cavaliers running back Christopher Darnell Jones — shot up the bus they’d all been on for a trip to Washington, DC.
“He waited until they all got back to Charlottesville, and he just shot up the bus,” Hollins told the DC paper. The critically injured student had yet to be IDed.
The university president paid tribute to the gunned-down players, calling it “an unimaginably sad day for our community.”
“When I see my students, I see my own kids, and I cannot imagine anything worse for a parent,” he said.
Loved ones and fans also posted tributes to the rising stars.
“God took one of his most kind, humble, loving soldiers off of the battlefield last night,” Davis Jr.’s cousin and Newberry College coach Sean Lampkin tweeted early Monday, asking for prayers for his “devastated” family.
“Love and already miss you, kid,” he wrote of the 6-foot-7 wide receiver who was a candidate for the 2022 Comeback Player of the Year.
After injury had ruled him out of 2021, Davis started six of the first seven games of the current season — catching a pass in each.
“Of his 16 catches on the season, seven receptions have gone for 20 yards or more, tied for the most on the team,” his team bio states.
Last month, he “matched a career-high with four catches including a 17-yard reception in the fourth quarter” against Lousiville “that broke the program’s all-time passing yards record.”
He also scored the team’s first touchdown with a 56-yard reception in the season opener against Richmond, where he “led all Cavalier pass catchers with 89 yards receiving on four catches.”
Davis, a third-year student at UVA, previously played at Woodland High School, where “there are no words to express the grief that the Woodland community is feeling right now,” one coach, Mathis Burnette, tweeted.
“Everything about Lavel Davis was first class and the world is a sadder place because he is gone,” he said.
“I loved Lavel Davis. Just a great kid,” said draft analyst and scout John Vogel.
“Wanted to be a great football player. Fought so hard to overcome an injury and get back on the field.”
Perry’s parents, Sean and Happy, confirmed their 22-year-old son was among the dead as they raced to fly in from their hometown of Miami, Florida.
A spokesman for the family, Michael Haggard, told Local 10 News that the parents were not ready to speak about it because “their grief is only beginning, and out of respect for the University of Virginia community which has been terrorized by another mass shooting in the United States.”
The 6-foot-3, 230-pound linebacker and defensive end had played in Saturday’s game against Pittsburgh, making two tackles.
Before going to UVA, where he was a fourth-year student, Perry was the South Florida Conference’s 2018 Defensive Player of the Year while at Gulliver Preparatory school in Miami.
Vogel called him “a rising star” who “had a chance to be special.”
Chandler, meanwhile, had recently transferred to the Cavaliers from the University of Wisconsin, where he played for the Badgers.
In his six games for the Badgers last season, the student returned a total of four kicks for 85 yards, his bio noted as former players paid tribute.
“Rest easy Dev,” Badgers running back Braelon Allen tweeted.
Chandler had started his prep career at Arlington High School in Tennessee, where he also ran track and field and was an honor-roll student.
Podcaster Jim Weber called the three players’ deaths “just an absolutely catastrophic situation.”
One fan, attorney Matt Meadows, said he was “crying in my office” at the news, adding: “I could throw up.”
“To think of all the games I watched them play and it ends like this.”
The suspect, Jones, had also been on the team in 2018, with his team pic used by police during the hours-long hunt for him through Monday morning.
The 5-foot-9-, 195-pound linebacker never got to appear in any games, however, despite his successes at Petersburg High School and Varina High School in Virginia. He was also a member of the National Honor Society and had been named Student of the Year as a freshman and sophomore at Varina, his team bio notes.
Hollins Jr., the player who survived getting hit in the back, was in stable condition, his dad told the Washington Post.
“The doctors said he’s going to recover,” the dad said. “They said because of his age and physical condition, he’s doing exceptionally well.”