Students, faculty, administrators, community members and families filled John Paul Jones Arena Saturday afternoon to honor the lives of the three victims and two students injured in Sunday’s shooting. Held at 3:30 p.m., the memorial service included musical selections, prayers, reflections from close friends and a poignant moment of silence.
Three members of the Virginia football team — second-year College student Devin Chandler, third-year College student Lavel Davis and fourth-year College student D’Sean Perry — were fatally shot Sunday while returning from a field trip in Washington, D.C. Two other students, third-year College student Mike Hollins and second-year College student Marlee Morgan, were injured. Suspect Christopher Darnell Jones Jr. has since been arrested and charged with three counts of second degree murder and three counts of possession of a handgun in the commission of a felony.
The ceremony was available via livestream and extra seating was also provided in the Old Cabell Hall Auditorium and outside of Klöckner Stadium. During the ceremony, friends and teammates shared stories of the lives each person led.
Second-year College student Cody Brown and second-year College student Lorenz Terry spoke fondly of Chandler. Known to his family as “Devin the dancing machine,” Terry said Chandler was a constant source of joy to those around him, always cracking jokes and pushing through hard times with a smile.
“You lit up our lives like a shining star in the sky,” Brown said. “Your smile alone was enough to brighten anyone’s day.”
Davis was described as a gentle giant with indomitable passion, constantly striving to be a good role model to his younger brother and sister. Notoriously fond of his hometown of Ridgeville S.C., Davis proudly carried a tattoo of his old home exit number on his arm. Speakers at the memorial spoke highly of Davis’ natural sense of leadership, humor and positive impact on those around him.
Second-year College student Elijah Gaines, who quickly bonded with Davis after first meeting him during his official visit to the University in 2019, said he remembers his compassion and “infectious smile.”
“Any time I saw him, no matter what it was, when he smiled, I smiled,” Gaines said. “I know that they would want us to keep going, to push forward, and cherish the loving memories that we have of each and every one of them.”
Perry was known as a renaissance man and mentored younger players, often providing emotional support and helping to lift others up. Outside of football, Perry rapped, painted, played the piano, and loved poetry and music. Third-year College student Hunter Stewart said Perry even enjoyed singing along to Adele, despite being unable to hit some of the higher notes.
First-year College student Will Bettridge had played alongside Perry since their time at Gulliver Prep in Miami, Fla. Bettridge said Perry acted as a true mentor during his first semester on the team, often offering rides home and advice.
“I admired you the whole way through and I could not be more proud of your success,” Bettridge said. “You were a rockstar in the community, giving back and helping others ahead of you, and doing everything for everyone before yourself.”
After members of the team shared their memories of the three players, Head Coach Tony Elliot began his remarks by sharing support for two other individuals on the bus during the shooting, Hollins and Morgan. Elliot then addressed the victim’s families and spoke to the talents of the three young men.
“I am grateful for your willingness to share your families’ gifts with us,” Elliot said. “I want each of you to know that I’m a better person because of your kings. The world is a better place because of them.”
The football team entered together and sat in seats towards the front, later joined by the victims’ families. Prior to the event’s official start, photos of the three men alongside friends and family filled the arena, joined by performances by musical groups such as the Viginia Gentlemen, University Singers and the MLK Community Choir.
Following the performance of “Goodness of God” by Grammy award-winning gospel singer CeCe Winans, University President Jim Ryan offered a reflection.
“I appreciate and grieve for the depth of this loss — the holes that it leaves in so many hearts,” Ryan said. “The hearts of their families, the hearts of their friends, the hearts of their teammates and coaches — who are both friends and family all at once.”
Student volunteers handed out programs, orange ribbons and bracelets that lit up blue, orange and white at the service and satellite locations. Near the end of the ceremony, the lights dimmed to reveal the twinkling lights in honor of the three student-athletes.
Prior to the doors opening at 2 p.m. Timothy Longo, Chief of University Police Department and vice president for security and safety, also sent an email to the University community that the University had received a threatening email regarding the event. The email said that enhanced security measures were in place and the necessary precautions were taken for the event to safely proceed.
The memorial service took the place of the team’s last regular home game of the season against Coastal Carolina, which was canceled earlier this week. A decision has yet to be made on the team’s upcoming game against rival Virginia Tech. Looking ahead to future seasons, Elliot said the football program will always fight on in honor of Davis, Chandler and Perry — always remembering their jersey numbers of 1, 15 and 41.
“We will turn today’s tragedy into tomorrow’s triumph,” Elliot said. “Because of 1, 15 and 41, we have a responsibility to rebuild this community and program on the legacy of them and do so in such a way as to bring light into the world.”