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At UVa memorial, 3 students killed in shooting remembered

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A boy who loved to dance. A front-row student at Sunday church. A football star whose first uniform was that of a red Power Ranger.

Those were some of the memories of Devin Chandler, Lavel Davis Jr. and D’Sean Perry that filled the John Paul Jones Arena on Saturday as the lives of the three University of Virginia students killed in Nov. 13’s on-campus shooting were honored.

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ABOVE: University of Virginia Director of Athletics Carla Williams spoke during the memorial service in Charlottesville on Saturday.

The event, peppered with Bible quotes and music, was illuminated by testimonials of classmates and football teammates and was reflective of the widespread grief felt across the university community. More than 9,000 people, many wearing orange ribbons, attended the event, which was broadcast by the ACC Network.

“Football was all that the world saw, but we got to see so much more,” said linebacker Nick Jackson during a speech as he reflected on Perry, a linebacker from Miami.

Said linebacker Jack Camper before he led the crowd in a prayer: “How blessed are we to have known three young men that are worthy of being celebrated?”

The student-athletes were slain on the night of Nov. 13 after attending a class field trip to Washington, D.C.

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Attendees take a moment of silence at a memorial service in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022. Over a thousand students and locals attended the service at John Paul Jones Arena to honor three student football players who were killed on Sunday, Nov. 13, 2022. (Mike Kropf/The Daily Progress)

Christopher Darnell Jones Jr.

, a UVa student who previously was on the football team, has been charged. He was arrested in Henrico County after a manhunt shut down the Charlottesville campus for over 12 hours.

Michael Hollins, also on the team, and student Marlee Morgan also were injured. Family members of all five students who were shot were present at the memorial, and the crowd rose when they entered the arena.

“A piece of my life was taken from me and from our Cavalier community,” said kicker Will Bettridge.

Bettridge, also from Miami, said he followed Perry to UVa. He called him a mentor to whom he looked up, as well as a role model to many.

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BELOW: People embraced before the service in Charlottesville on Saturday. The shooting “has changed us,” said UVa President Jim Ryan during the memorial.

Lots of laughs were had as well. From belting the lyrics to “Someone Like You” by Adele on the team bus to dancing at practices to “infectious smiles” and mentorship of younger players, members of the team shared favorite memories. While some teammates sniffled through their speeches, others smiled as they recalled funny memories.

At a news conference earlier in the week, coach Tony Elliott was tearful, but at the memorial, he grinned as he shared anecdotes of his “three young kings.”

“I’m confident that all three are rejoicing in paradise,” Elliott said as he addressed the families of Chandler, Davis and Perry.

The service also included tributes from child home videos and footage from games and practices. There were performances by the Martin Luther King Community Choir, gospel singer CeCe Winans and the Cavalier Marching Band.

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A person places a flower on a memorial before a memorial service in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022. Over a thousand students and locals attended the service at John Paul Jones Arena to honor three student football players who were killed on Sunday, Nov. 13, 2022. (Mike Kropf/The Daily Progress)

“Devin, Lavel and D’Sean were loved by so many people,” UVa Director of Athletics Carla Williams told the crowd.

Williams said she spent time with family members of the slain students, looking through photo albums and talking about memories.

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A person places a flower on a memorial before a memorial service in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022. Over a thousand students and locals attended the service at John Paul Jones Arena to honor three student football players who were killed on Sunday, Nov. 13, 2022. (Mike Kropf/The Daily Progress)

She told the story of how Chandler was known for his dancing, even as a child.

“His rhythm was suspect,” she said with a smile, “but his confidence was never in doubt.”

A woman who said she is a classmate of Davis, but asked that her name not be used, said it felt like a “dark cloud had come over campus.”

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A person places a flower on a memorial before a memorial service in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022. Over a thousand students and locals attended the service at John Paul Jones Arena to honor three student football players who were killed on Sunday, Nov. 13, 2022. (Mike Kropf/The Daily Progress)

The classmate laid a bouquet of flowers down before a photo of Davis, whose hometown was Dorchester, S.C. She said she didn’t know him as a football player, but as a sweet, funny kid from her theater class.

“We all had to choose nicknames for the class, and he chose the name ‘Loving Lavel,’” the classmate shared. “I didn’t even recognize him in his uniform or from the photo they shared with the school after. It was weird to see him like that.”

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A person placed a flower on a memorial before a service at John Paul Jones Arena on the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville on Saturday to honor the three student football players who were killed on the night of Nov. 13. Over 9,000 people attended the service.

Bill Irving, who graduated from UVa in 1973, attended the memorial and said he looks forward to university President Jim Ryan being proactive. The university last week handed the investigation over to the Virginia State Police, and the state attorney general’s office is reviewing the school’s handling of the incident.

“It’s so inadequate to say thoughts and prayers anymore,” he said. “I hope they have a plan to prevent the senselessness of these tragedies.”

Irving said he had heard news reports regarding the suspect, who had been flagged to UVa’s threat assessment team in September.

“Society has rights, too, and the school community has a right to be alerted,” Irving said.

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A crowd waited to enter the memorial service at John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville on Saturday. Cavalier football players Devin Chandler, Lavel Davis Jr. and D’Sean Perry were fatally shot on the night of Nov. 13 after attending a class field trip to Washington, D.C. Michael Hollins, also on the team, and student Marlee Morgan were shot and injured.

Leighann Wiley, a Charlottesville resident, attended the vigil in honor of her grandmother, a lifelong Cavaliers fan. Wiley said the shooting has rippled out to the greater Charlottesville community.

“How could you not feel it? It’s changed everything,” Wiley said.

She said she’s frustrated with the state of gun control in the United States, echoing ongoing reporting that has opened questions into why police from several departments did not do more to act on warnings regarding Jones.

But, most importantly, Wiley said, she was here to grieve.

“This is how you do that. This right here,” said Wiley, gesturing to the arena behind her.

During a mass shooting Sunday on a charter bus on Virginia’s campus, Mike Hollins, a running back on the UVA football team, rushed back onto the bus in an attempt to save lives only to find himself face-to-face with a gunman who had just shot to death three of his teammates.

During the memorial, Ryan told the audience that the school would never be the same as a result of the shooting — and the memories of the students won’t be erased.

“It has pierced the veil of innocence that graced our Grounds” until the night of Nov. 13, he said. “It has changed us.”

cwoods@timesdispatch.com

Twitter: @charlottewords

lpowell@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6103

Twitter: @luca_a_powell

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