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Independent review of UVa shooting completed

Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares has announced the conclusion of an independent external review into the shooting at the University of Virginia that claimed the lives of three student-athletes last year.

That report is now in the hands of university officials, UVa said Friday. As previously reported by The Daily Progress, the details of that report will not be made public until later. Officials have suggested that could be as soon as early November.

“University leadership is currently reviewing the report to ensure factual accuracy, as well as the report’s recommendations,” UVa said in a statement. “We will also discuss the recommendations with the Board of Visitors and with those who were most directly affected by this terrible tragedy, including the families of the students who were killed.”

Christopher Darnell Jones Jr., the man who stands accused of the shooting that killed three student-athletes and injured two others the night of Nov. 13, appeared in Albemarle County Circuit Court on Friday, waiving his right to a speedy trial.

On the night of Nov. 13, Jones, then a student who had previously played on the UVa football team, is accused of opening fire on sleeping and unsuspecting fellow students inside a chartered bus returning from a field trip to see a theatrical production of “The Ballad of Emmett Till” in Washington, D.C.

The gunfire killed UVa football players Lavel Davis Jr., Devin Chandler and D’Sean Perry and injured teammate Michael Hollins and another student on board Marlee Morgan.

Jones was arrested on Nov. 14 after a 12-hour manhunt and has been held in custody at the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail since then. Today, he faces 13 charges, including aggravated murder, aggravated malicious wounding and using a firearm in commission of a felony. A single conviction of aggravated murder carries a life sentence in Virginia.

Jones is currently on the court docket for Feb. 5, when a trial date may be set.

In the wake of the shooting, UVa requested an independent and external review: how one of its students came to possess a firearm on Grounds where guns are prohibited, why early warnings signs that Jones was dangerous did not prevent the tragedy and what more, if anything, could the university have done to prevent the tragedy.

UVa has faced criticism after officials acknowledged that they had been previously alerted by a roommate that Jones kept a gun in his dormitory and that they only later learned Jones had failed to disclose a prior criminal conviction for carrying a concealed weapon.

A police search warrant inventory obtained by The Daily Progress shows that officers seized a pistol, a semi-automatic rifle, ammunition and a device designed to multiply trigger pulls inside Jones’ Brandon Avenue residence hall.

The attorney general’s office selected global law firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan to lead the review and appointed Zachary Terwilliger of the D.C.-based Vinson & Elkins law firm as special counsel to review any federal, state and local law enforcement issues surrounding the shooting and events that preceded the tragedy.

Terwilliger previously served as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. Miyares previously told The Daily Progress that the co-chairs of Quinn Emanuel’s Crisis Law and Strategy Group, William Burck and Crystal Nix-Hines, would lead the review.

Harvard Law graduate Nix-Hines, as chair of her firm’s education practice, represents, counsels and conducts internal investigations for colleges and universities in the U.S. According to her professional profile, she has represented Michigan State University, Duke University, the University of Pennsylvania and others.

Yale Law graduate Burck does not list any universities on his professional profile. Among the list of Burck’s high-profile former clients is former Trump White House strategist Steve Bannon. Burck dropped Bannon as a client in 2020 without giving a reason.

Terwilliger’s profile highlights “piloting clients and their corporate entities through the tumultuous and complex waters of internal and government investigations is our role.” His resume reflects a career serving on both sides of courtroom, both leading investigations into public and private entities as well as defending them. The UVa alumnus and William & Mary law graduate lists “representing a major university system in connection with an investigation by Congress and a state legislature” among his “experience highlights.”

Their combined services could cost the state as much as $1.5 million, according to documents The Daily Progress obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.

“The deaths of Devin Chandler, D’Sean Perry, and Lavel Davis Jr. are a tremendous tragedy and we continue to remember them, their families, and what they meant to the UVA community,” Miyares said in a statement after the conclusion of the review Friday. “My office, thanks to the work of the special counsels, has procured a thorough report of last fall’s tragic events, and I am thankful for their deliberate efforts.”

UVa said it has not had access to the review or its findings until Friday.

“This is the first opportunity any university officials or Board of Visitors members has had to review and evaluate the findings and recommendations of the two external counselors who were appointed to conduct the review,” the school said in a statement. “University leaders remain committed to learning as much as possible about the tragedy and the circumstances that led to it, and to applying those lessons to keep the community safe.”

Whatever the findings of the review, they do not preclude the victims’ families from filing suit against the university.

“There’s no way, when you have dead college students, that there’s not going to be a lawsuit,” Carliss Chatman, an associate professor at Washington and Lee School of Law who specializes in corporate and commercial law, previously told The Daily Progress. “The question is how big. When you’re doing crisis lawyering in that scenario, you’re not going to avoid a lawsuit. You’re just going to make the number smaller.”


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