The UMW community is mourning the loss of three students at the University of Virginia, UMW’s former sibling school. At around 10:30 p.m. Sunday night, three U.Va. students were shot dead, and two injured. The deceased are Devin Chandler, Lavel Davis Jr. and D’Sean Perry. All three were football players returning from a field trip.
“This tragedy comes close to home for us, as the University of Mary Washington mourns with the University of Virginia,” said University President Troy Paino. “As a sibling institution, we share a deep history and respect, and now share our sympathies and support. Many of our Mary Washington leaders have extended calls and checked in with colleagues and counterparts, and our students have stepped in support of their friends and classmates across the state.”
The suspected shooter, Christopher Darnell Jones Jr., was apprehended a little after 11 a.m. on Monday, Nov. 14.
On Monday morning, UMW students received an email from Vice President of Student Affairs Juliette Landphair and Chief of Police Michael Hall.
“Our hearts go out to the many individuals impacted, particularly the families and friends who have lost loved ones,” the email reads. “Campus safety remains a top priority.”
The UMW Student Government Association posted a statement on its social media.
“On behalf of the student body of the University of Mary Washington, the Student Government Association keeps our friends and family at UVA in our prayers today, as we all struggle with the tragic news,” the statement read. “Our hearts are with all of you at our sister school as we navigate this tragedy. UMW supports all those grieving from UVA and will always be an ally for anyone in need during this difficult time.”
Until the early 1970s, Mary Washington College was the women’s college of the University of Virginia. It wasn’t until U.Va. went co-ed that Mary Washington College was considered an independent college, and then renamed to the University of Mary Washington in 2004 as graduate programs grew.
Despite now being two independent universities, the communities at UMW and U.Va. often overlap. With U.Va. so close to campus, many students and faculty have loved ones affected.
Sophomore philosophy pre-law major Aiden Halloran grew up in Charlottesville.
“I received a text in a group chat full of people there that the event had happened and they were placed under the ‘RunHideFight.’ I was extremely nervous about their safety at first and grateful they were all ok,” he said. “It’s also hard trying to understand that this happened only minutes from my house as well and could have put my family at threat as well.”
Junior studio art major Sarah Yowell worried about her friends at U.Va.
“I found out through my mom texting in the family group chat a news story and she asked me if I had heard anything from my friends who go to UVA and I immediately got worried,” she said. “I messaged my friends and thankfully none of them were physically hurt; but the thing that makes me upset was the fact that I have had to worry about this issue with school shootings since kindergarten and it is still happening while I’m in college.”
Junior psychology and studio art double major Jessey Machado has a younger brother, Nicholas, who is a freshman at U.Va. Nicholas texted the family group chat around 11:30 p.m., saying that there was an active shooter on campus.
“I slept horribly that night, and when I had woken up my brother was still in lockdown,” said Machado. “He hadn’t eaten in hours nor left his room. By the time the stay in place order was lifted, it was more than 12 hours since the first notice was sent out. Nevertheless, my brother refused to leave his dorm to eat that day.”
The recent situation that happened at U.Va. has brought up memories of the active shooter threat at UMW a few years ago. In Nov. 2019, UMW was put into a shelter-in-place order after a student threatened to shoot via voicemail.
“I really have no idea if we’re prepared for an active shooter situation,” said Emily Whitt, senior accounting major. “Can you ever be prepared for an active shooter situation? Plus, we don’t discuss active shooter plans in classes so we literally wouldn’t know what to do.”
According to Hall in a 2019 article by The Weekly Ringer, the threat gave the university an opportunity to evaluate future responses. The UMW Police Department did not immediately respond to The Weekly Ringer’s request for comment.
UMW’s current active shooter response lists that students should evacuate, hide out and take action only as a last resort.
“I don’t think we were prepared in 2019 because the students in Combs didn’t know where to go and they were running around without a safe space to go to,” said Whitt.
Halloran, a U.Va. football season ticket holder, watched the three players who died many times.
“One of those identified was Lavel Davis Jr.,” said Halloran. “I am a season ticket holder at UVA as well and have watched him many times as well as met him off the field. Thus I hold this closer to my heart … all of those associated have my condolences.”
This week, both the UMW and U.Va. communities are taking time to reflect on the lives lost.
“We’ll be with them to heal, to learn, and to extend care and community from Mary Washington during this difficult time,” said Paino. “UVA is on our minds and in our hearts.”