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UVa shooting stuns parents, leaders

Pediatrician Carlos Armengol made his Monday morning commute to downtown through the Grounds of the University of Virginia and along Main Street and its usually bustling Corner District.

"The whole way was a ghost town," said Armengol. "There was no traffic and more police than pedestrians—pretty eerie feeling on a Monday morning in November."

By that point, Armengol knew why. As the parent of the UVa first-year student, he’d been getting texts throughout the night and morning.

"I’m worried about my son who is locked down in his dorm and unable to leave," said Armengol. "I’m worried about the active shooter still out and about. And I’m worried about the psyche of my son and all the other students at the university."

UVa, Charlottesville and Albemarle public schools and several private schools canceled class on Monday.

Pastor Lynne Clements at the closest spiritual center to the shooting, Westminster Presbyterian Church, asserted in an email that the church has already begun planning its outreach to grieving students.

"We are heartbroken at the violence that happened on the Grounds at UVa and in our neighborhood," Clements wrote.

While the suspect Christopher Darnell Jones Jr. was apprehended and the shelter-in-place order lifted by late morning Monday, Armengol predicted that the incident will raise the issue of gun control, something he supports.

"I’m tired of thoughts and prayers," said Armengol. "We need some wholesale changes in the U.S. with how we handle guns."

City Councilor Brian Pinkston, who has discussed a recent spate of city shootings at Council meetings, agrees.

"We won’t know for a while the motivation, but I will say this nation has a problem with too many guns just floating around."

Pinkston says that his three telephones—one for City Council, one for his job at UVa, and one as his personal device—began collecting messages while he slept.

The first UVa warning sent at 10:32 Sunday night advised of a "shots fired" at Culbreth garage and warned: "If possible, avoid the area."

Eight minutes later, the second warning was more urgent: "Reported 1 suspect at large, shelter in place."

Then came the third alert, time-stamped at 10:43: "ACTIVE ATTACKER firearm reported in area of Culbreth Road. RUN HIDE FIGHT."

Shortly after 4:30 a.m., University President Jim Ryan issued a letter to the community announcing the deaths of three student-athletes and naming the suspect.

"UVa does a really good job of getting the notification out," says Pinkston. "The UPD folks have leapt into action."

He says that the medical workers also deserve praise.

"We’ve got professionals on the ground doing good work on the ground on what is obviously a very tragic situation."

Pinkston contends that City Council has made strides to make its policing more equitable, but he disagrees with any suggestion of significantly shrinking the police force.

"We care a lot about equitable policing," said Pinkston. "But at the same we need a strong, well-trained, effective CPD."

The day before the terror on Culbreth Road, a teen was shot multiple times on Hardy Drive. That’s just one of several shootings—including two fatal ones—in the city this fall. A domestic shooting claimed a life on Stony Point Road three weeks ago.

"Crime is a problem," said Pinkston, "and we can’t wish it away."

Later in the day, Virginia State Police cars had left their campus, and streets opened back up, including the one leading to Culbreth Garage.

A mother and her eighth-grade son rode to the stop sign at the garage’s exit as the sun lowered to the horizon. They got off their bikes and placed flowers on the concrete by the stop sign and a handwritten note.

"I had to do something," said Mercedes Herrero, a high school teacher. "This feels like a brutal reoccurrence of the summer of hate. In my hometown, the unleashing of cruelty has infected us again."

Her son, Javy, had written the note. He said he wanted to let the young men know how bad he felt that they had lost their lives to gun violence.

It began with "Dear D’Sean, Devin and Lavel, I truly apologize from the bottom on my heart…"


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