CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — The University of Virginia shooting suspect bought two guns this year after failing a background check in 2021 and attempting to buy a handgun when he was underage, according to the store that sold him the weapons.
Christopher Darnell Jones Jr., 22, purchased a Ruger AR-556 rifle and a Glock 45 9 mm pistol with an additional magazine from Dance’s Sporting Goods in Colonial Heights, Virginia, store owner Marlon Dance said in statement.
The rifle was purchased on Feb. 19 and the pistol was bought on July 8. “There was nothing noteworthy about these purchases,” the statement said.
Authorities have not disclosed the type of gun used in the shooting that left football players Devin Chandler, D’Sean Perry and Lavell Davis Jr. dead and two other students wounded.
Jones had visited Dance’s Sporting Goods before this year. On July 8, 2021, he tried to buy a Smith & Wesson M&P15-22, a .22-caliber rifle, but “failed the background check,” the statement said. He also tried to buy a handgun when he was younger than 21 on Dec. 31, 2018, according to the statement.
“Jones DID NOT receive either of the firearms he attempted to purchase and both attempted purchases were forwarded to the Virginia State Police for further action. We will continue to assist law enforcement as they attempt to make sense of this terrible tragedy and we pray for the victims of this tragedy,” the statement said.
There is “an active investigation into an attempted purchase of a firearm on July 8,” Virginia State Police spokesperson Corinne Geller said, adding the agency’s Firearms Transaction Center denied Jones’ request based on a pending charge.
Geller did not disclose the charge, but NBC affiliate WWBT of Richmond reported it stemmed from a hit-and-run crash Jones was involved in on Aug. 9, 2020, in Petersburg.
“The pending charge was reduced to a misdemeanor by the court in October 2021, thereby removing the prohibition against future purchases,” Geller said.
A request to speak to the gun store owner Thursday about the statement was declined. Earlier attempts to reach Dance were unsuccessful.
Prosecutor James Hingeley of the Albemarle County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office spoke about Jones’ criminal history during the suspect’s first appearance in court Wednesday.
Jones was arrested Feb. 22, 2021, in Chesterfield County, Virginia, on a concealed weapons violation, Hingeley said. He was convicted on June 10, 2021, and given a 12-month suspended sentence, Hingeley said.
When Jones was arrested in Chesterfield County, he had outstanding warrants on charges of hit-and-run with property damage and reckless driving in connection with the Petersburg crash, Hingeley said. He was given a 12-month suspended sentence on each of the charges on Oct. 18, 2021, Hingeley said.
On Tuesday, university officials admitted they learned of Jones’ conviction on the weapons charge around mid-September and did not start a disciplinary process against him.
But it was unclear whether that understanding would have been enough for the university to take timely, serious action against Jones before he allegedly opened fire on a bus around 10:30 p.m. Sunday. Jones and about two dozen classmates had just returned to campus from a field trip to see a play in Washington, D.C., university spokesperson Brian Coy said.
The suspect fled, prompting a manhunt and a shelter-in-place order that lasted about 12 hours, officials said.
Henrico County police captured Jones just before 11 a.m. Monday in Richmond, about 75 miles southeast of the Charlottesville campus.
He is charged with three counts of second-degree murder, five counts of use of a firearm in the commission of a felony and two counts of malicious wounding in connection, court records show.
In court Wednesday, Hingeley said Jones fatally shot Chandler while he slept. A witness reported that Jones was aiming at “certain people” and “not randomly shooting,” Hingeley said.