Some of the more than 500 University of Virginia students who remained sheltered in place during the 12-hour manhunt for ex-football player turned shooting suspect Christopher Darnell Jones Jr. Sunday night into Monday morning recounted barricading themselves indoors and pondered what the lingering effects will be on campus.
Monday night, students participated in a candlelight vigil and prayer services to honor the five active UVA football players either killed or hospitalized after the shooting that erupted on a charter bus at an on-campus parking garage while students were retuning from a class field trip Sunday night.
Sorority and fraternity houses not far from the crime screen reportedly had the names and numbers of the three deceased players, D’Sean Perry, Lavel Davis Jr. and Devin Chandler, sprayed on banners, along with other messages such as “UVA Strong” and “Virginia Strong.”
For 12 hours, students had huddled inside laboratory closets and darkened dorm rooms across the University of Virginia while others moved far away from library windows and barricaded the doors of its stately academic buildings after an ominous warning flashed on their screens: “RUN. HIDE. FIGHT.”
Responding to the immediate threat of an on-campus shooting was a moment they had prepared for since their first years of elementary school. But dealing with the emotional trauma of an attack that killed three members of the school’s football team late Sunday left students shaken and grasping to understand.
“This will probably affect our campus for a very, very long time,” Shannon Lake, a third-year student from Crozet, Virginia, told The Associated Press.
During the shelter-in-place order, she hid with friends and other students, much of that time in a storage closet, while authorities searched into Monday morning for the suspect before he was taken into custody.
When Lake and the others heard someone might be right outside the business school building, they all decided to go into the closet, turn off the lights and barricade the door.
“That was probably the most terrifying moment because it became more real to us, and reminded us of those practice school lockdowns as children. And it was just kind of a surreal moment where, you know, I don’t think any of us were really processing what was going on,” she told the AP.
Police charged 22-year-old student Jones Jr. with three counts of second-degree murder, saying the three victims, all active UVA football players, were killed just after 10:15 p.m. as a charter bus full of students returned from seeing a play in Washington, D.C. Two other students were wounded.
A source told Fox News Digital the injured were also UVA football players, and a total of five victims played on the offensive line.
UVA President Jim Ryan said authorities did not have a “full understanding” of the motive or circumstances surrounding the shooting. University Police Chief Timothy Longo Sr. said the suspect had once been on the UVA football team, but he had not been part of the team for at least a year. The UVA football website listed Jones as a team member during the 2018 season and said he did not play in any games.
Longo also said Jones had faced a prior hazing investigation and had been on UVA’s radar over an alleged criminal incident involving a weapons violation that happened outside Charlottesville. He faced administrative charges by the university for failing to report the matter as is required of all UVA students.
Charlotte Goeb, a student who lives in an apartment about a half-mile away from the shooting scene, immediately checked her doors and shut off the lights after getting an alert from the school.
“I’m having a hard time coming to terms that this was happening,” she told the AP. “Even though you spend all of your upbringing knowing this can happen.”
Ellie Wilkie, a fourth-year student, was about to leave her room on the university’s prestigious, historic Lawn at the center of campus when her group texts with friends began exploding with word of the shooting. But she didn’t barricade herself in right away.
“I think our generation has been so habituated to these being drills and this being commonplace that I didn’t even think it was all that serious until I got an email that said, ‘Run. Hide. Fight,’ all caps,” she said.
Wilkie moved a large trunk she uses for storage in front of the door and put her mattress on top of that. She turned off the lights, unplugged anything that might make noise, put her phone on do-not-disturb mode, got under the covers of her top bunk and texted her mom, who called back, terrified.
She picked up but told her mom: “I have to get off the phone now. I can’t be making noise in here.”
Hours after Jones was arrested, first-year head football coach Tony Elliott sat alone outside the athletic building used by the team, at times with his head in his hands. He said the victims “were all good kids.”
Elizabeth Paul was working at a desktop computer in the Clemons library when she got a call from her mom about the shooting. She thought it was probably something minor until the computer she was using lit up with a warning about an active shooter.
She spent about 12 hours huddled with several others underneath windows in the library, hoping that if gunfire did erupt, they would be out of sight. She spent most of the night on the phone with her mom.
“Not even talking to her the whole time necessarily, but she wanted the line to be on so that if I needed something she was there,” Paul told the AP.
Em Gunter, a second-year anthropology student, heard three gunshots and then three more while she was studying genetics in her dorm room.
She told everyone on her floor to go into their rooms, shut their blinds and turn off the lights. Students know from active shooter drills how to respond, she said.
“But how do we deal with it afterwards?” she asked. “What’s it going to be like in a week, in a month?”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.