RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — After a deadly shooting at the University of Virginia, lawmakers are calling for reform and raising questions on what, if anything, could have prevented this tragedy.
With an investigation underway, there are still many unknowns but police say the accused shooter was on the radar of school officials as early as September.
During an appearance on Fox News on Tuesday morning, Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares was asked if the shooting could have been prevented.
“I’m going to allow the pundits to make that determination. I think one of the worst disservices I could do to those that are investigating this is to put information out there while they are still trying to get information,” Miyares said.
Miyares declined our interview request on Tuesday.
In a press conference on Monday, UVA Police Chief Tim Longo said Christopher Darnell Jones Jr., the student accused of killing three football players and injuring two other students following a class field trip on Sunday night, first came to the attention of the school’s threat assessment team in September 2022. He said the Office of Student Affairs reported receiving information from a person unaffiliated with the university that Jones “made a comment about possessing a gun.”
“That reporting person, again unaffiliated with the university, to the best of our knowledge, never saw a gun. The comment about Mr. Jones owning a gun was not made in conjunction with any threats,” Longo said.
Longo said school officials made efforts to contact Jones and followed up with his roommate, who did not report seeing the weapon.
Longo said Jones was also involved with “a hazing investigation of some sort” that was eventually closed due to a lack of witness cooperation. Jones was a former member of the football team at UVA.
During a press conference on Tuesday evening, UVA Athletic Director Carla Williams said she was unaware of any hazing investigations involving members of the football team.
Longo said that during the investigation, the threat assessment team learned Jones was previously convicted of a concealed weapon violation in February of 2021. He said the school is still in the process of adjudicating that issue.
“He is required as a student at the University of Virginia to report that, and he never did. So the university has taken appropriate administrative charges through the university’s judiciary counsel,” Longo said.
UVA police and communications staff didn’t respond on Tuesday to several follow up questions. It’s not clear how the university would have responded if that concealed weapons violation had been reported by Jones, what the punishment is for failing to report it and whether there is a procedure in place for cross-checking criminal records.
The Washington Post reported that Jones repeatedly refused to cooperate with the school’s investigation. It’s not clear if the threat assessment team has any recourse in that situation and what those consequences would look like.
In a tweet on Monday responding to the shooting, Senator Tim Kaine said, “We must take further action to make our communities safer.”
Asked what steps should be taken at an event on Tuesday, Kaine said, “We have to study exactly what all the details were. You don’t take action until you know. But I’m sure that there is going to be some important lessons learned about campus security, about how you treat early warning signs and what you do about them, and I continue to believe we need to do as a nation what Virginia has done and enact some more commonsense gun safety measures.”
In a statement on Monday, the White House echoed calls for increasing gun violence prevention in the wake of the shooting.
“Earlier this year, President Biden signed the most significant gun safety law in nearly three decades, in addition to taking other historic actions. But we must do more. We need to enact an assault weapons ban to get weapons of war off America’s streets,” the statement read.
UVA officials didn’t respond when asked what firearm was used in the shooting and if it was legally obtained by Jones.
On Monday, Longo said Jones would face charges for using a handgun in commission of a felony, as well as second-degree murder.
Legal analyst Russ Stone said Jones’s previous conviction would not have prohibited him from owning or possessing a firearm, though campus policy may have.
Kaine said the state should order a review of the shooting.
“The first thing you have to do is what I did when I was Governor after the shooting at Virginia Tech. I empaneled an independent commission to look at everything that happened, what went right and what went wrong, and then based on that, what do we need to do? That’s what needs to happen,” Kaine said.
Governor Youngkin’s office didn’t respond when asked about next steps and calls for reform.