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Former U High football star has successful surgery after Virginia shooting

10 months 2 weeks 3 days ago Tuesday, November 15 2022 Nov 15, 2022 November 15, 2022 11:00 AM November 15, 2022 in News
Source: Associated Press

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — A former high school football star from Baton Rouge was among several college football players shot at the University of Virginia on Sunday. Three people died, and Michael Hollins was one of two students wounded in the attack.

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Family members said Hollins, a University Laboratory School grad and football player, was in stable condition after surgery Monday. He went back into surgery Tuesday morning, and his mother said he was doing "great" after the operation that morning.

"Today is a good day," his mother, Brenda Hollins, told WBRZ on Tuesday morning.

Andy Martin, the head coach at Hollins' former high school, commented on his experiences with Hollins when he played for U High.

Mike was a great kid. Was awesome to be around, had a great personality, always a smile on his face. It was just a pleasure to have him on the team and coach," Martin said.

“Hands down, all around great dude. Doesn’t run into trouble, stays out of trouble. I can say, if his friends are in trouble, he’ll do whatever it takes to protect his friends. That’s the type of person he is," said Michael "Gideon" Cuellar, a former team mate of Hollins.

University of Virginia spokesperson Brian Coy said the suspect in the shooting, Christopher Darnell Jones Jr., 22, joined what was previously described as a group of about two dozen others who traveled about 120 miles  from the campus in Charlottesville, Virginia, to Washington for the field trip Sunday. Police said Jones, a former member of the school’s football team, shot and killed three current team members and wounded two other students, one of them Hollins.

The shooting set off panic and a 12-hour lockdown of the campus until the suspect was captured Monday just outside Richmond.

University President Jim Ryan said at a news conference Monday that authorities did not have a “full understanding” of the motive or circumstances of the shooting. Authorities said it was unclear how Jones was able to flee the shooting scene.

An initial court appearance for Jones was set for Wednesday morning. The prosecutor handling the case, Albemarle Commonwealth’s Attorney James Hingeley, said in an email that in addition to previously announced second-degree murder and firearms charges, Jones also faces two counts of malicious wounding and additional gun-related charges.

Online records did not list a defense attorney who could speak on behalf of Jones, who remained in custody Tuesday. If Jones is financially eligible for court-appointed counsel, an attorney will be appointed Wednesday, Hingeley wrote. The hearing may also involve a preliminary bail review, he said.

The university canceled classes and other academic activities Tuesday and made counselors and therapy dogs available to the university community.

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin ordered flags around the state lowered to half-staff and he also made an unannounced visit to the campus. Speaking to reporters near a memorial at the football stadium after he left flowers, 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, who also thanked the first responders and said he was praying for the wounded students.

The university has identified the three slain students as Devin Chandler, Lavel Davis Jr. and D’Sean Perry. Head football coach Tony Elliott said they were all “incredible young men with huge aspirations and extremely bright futures.”

Hingeley also identified the fourth and fifth surviving victims, one of whom is a football team member. Jones faces the malicious wounding and related gun charges in connection with the attack on those survivors.

Jones was a member of the school’s football team during the 2018 season. His father, Chris Jones Sr., told Richmond TV station WTVR he was in disbelief after getting a call from police Monday.

“My heart goes out to their families. I don’t know what to say, except I’m sorry, on his behalf, and I apologize,” he said.

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

Jones came to the attention of the university’s threat-assessment team this fall in the context of a review of a “potential hazing issue,” the university said in a statement provided to the AP on Tuesday.

During that review, university officials heard from a student that Jones made a comment about having a gun. That student did not report Jones making any threat, according to the statement. University officials investigated and subsequently discovered Jones had previously been tried and convicted of a misdemeanor concealed weapons violation in 2021.

“Throughout the investigation, Mr. Jones repeatedly refused to cooperate with University officials who were seeking additional information about the claims that he had a firearm and about his failure to disclose the previous misdemeanor conviction. Accordingly, on October 27, the Threat Assessment Team escalated his case for disciplinary action,” the statement said.

The killings happened as the nation is on edge from a string of mass shootings during the last six months. Among them were an attack that killed 19 students and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas; a shooting at a Fourth of July parade in a Chicago suburb that killed seven people and wounded more than 30; and a shooting at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, that killed 10 people and wounded three.

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

“I think UVA 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 sheltered in her room on the historic Lawn at the center of campus during the lockdown.

But she added that she hoped students would have time to grieve the lives lost and that the university would consider whether systemic changes could be made to prevent something similar from happening again.

Classes were to resume at the university Wednesday, though UVA announced it would not require undergraduate students to complete any graded assignments or take exams before the Thanksgiving break.

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