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UVa to host 'dialogue' on gun violence on anniversary of shooting

It’s been one year since the shooting on University of Virginia Grounds that took the lives of three student-athletes and injured two others.

While the public awaits the release of an independent, external review of the events before, during and after a gunman opened fire on a charter bus returning from a field trip to Washington, D.C., UVa plans to host a gathering Monday to mark the solemn occasion.

On Monday, the school’s Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy will hold a gathering focused on individual and community recovery in the aftermath of all gun violence.

There are four speakers scheduled to talk at Old Cabell Hall, including Happy Perry, the mother of one of the slain.

D’Sean Perry and fellow Cavalier football players Lavel Davis Jr. and Devin Chandler were gunned down the night of Nov. 13, 2022, in a charter bus returning from a field trip to see a performance of “The Ballad of Emmett Till” in Washington. Their teammate Michael Hollins and another student on board the bus, Marlee Morgan, sustained injuries but survived.

A 12-hour manhunt eventually led to the capture of Christopher Darnell Jones Jr., a student who was also on the bus and once played with the Cavaliers. Jones has been held at Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail since then.

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 aftermath of the attack, officials acknowledged that they had been previously alerted 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.

UVa turned to the state attorney general’s office and requested an independent, external investigation be conducted into the incident. That report was concluded on Oct. 20 but has been kept from the public as UVa officials review it for “factual accuracy.”

The school has said it plans to release the report’s conclusions some time in “early November.”

In the meantime, on Monday, nearly halfway through the month of November, the university said it hopes the community will find solace hearing the personal stories of healing from Happy Perry and the other speakers slated to discuss gun violence.

“The goal is to convene stakeholders from Central Virginia to understand the issues and encourage coordinated and collaborative efforts that generate useful strategies, practices, and policies to better resolve conflict, lessen the likelihood of violence, assist with healing and recovery, and enhance overall community well-being,” the Batten School said in a statement.

Happy Perry will be joined at the gathering by three others:

A’Dorian Murray-Thomas is founder and CEO of SHE Wins Inc., a leadership and mentoring organization for women and girls who, like her, lost a loved one to gun violence. Murray-Thomas is the youngest woman, at 23, elected to Newark, New Jersey’s Board of Education. She is currently a candidate for a master of divinity degree at Union Theological Seminary.

Kevin Parker is a former member of the House of Representatives in Washington state, an entrepreneur and a leadership instructor for members of the armed services, undergraduate and MBA students. He is a survivor of the 1999 Columbine High School shooting and travels internationally sharing lessons learned from the tragedy.

Tracy Walls graduated from the University of Georgia, where, as an engaged student-athlete, she played on the 1996 SEC Championship women’s basketball team. She has spent more than 20 years teaching and working in school administration and is an adjunct professor at Tennessee State University. In 2020, she lost her eldest son, Edgar J. Utley, to gun violence.

The discussion Monday is to be moderated by Frank Dukes a facilitator with UVa’s Institute for Engagement & Negotiation who founded University & Community Action for Racial Equity to address the school’s legacy of slavery and White supremacy. He currently chairs the board of the nonprofit anti-hate group Not In Our Town.

Monday’s gathering, which Batten is calling “Beyond Boundaries: A Campus-Community-Nation Dialogue on Healing from Gun Violence,” will begin at 11:30 a.m. at Old Cabell Hall.

For those interested in attending, the closest parking is on Central Grounds.

“Attendees will be invited to proceed afterwards to the UVA Chapel where the bells will chime at 12:55 p.m. in memory of the three men,” the Batten School said in its statement.


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