news uva student describes horror on the bus i was checking his body and he had gunshots
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UVA student describes horror on the bus: ‘I was checking his body, and he had gunshots’

Ryan Lynch
Photo: ABC News/Twitter

Ryan Lynch, a second-year neuroscience major, wants the families of the three UVA Football student-athletes whose lives were taken Sunday night that they didn’t die alone.

“Every single one of the guys, there was someone on that bus who tried to help them. I just want their families to know someone was with them, one of us was with them after they were shot, and we loved them so much,” Lynch told ABC News on Tuesday.

Lynch was among the 25 UVA students on the bus trip to take in the 3 p.m. Sunday performance at the Atlas Performing Arts Center in Washington, D.C., of The Ballad of Emmett Till, the first in a trilogy of powerful plays about the 1955 lynching of a 14-year-old that was among the moments that sparked the civil rights movement.

The bus trip had begun at 11:30 a.m. with students meeting at Culbreth Theater on Grounds.

Lynch, who said she had become friends with the four football student-athletes in her drama class – Devin Chandler, Lavel Davis Jr., Mike Hollins and D’Sean Perry – remembers being surprised that they were able to make the trip, considering that the team had played a game less than 24 hours earlier.

Chris Jones, who faces three second-degree murder charges in the shooting deaths of Chandler, Davis and Hollins, was not in the theater class.

Lynch said he had signed up for the trip because he was in a social-justice class taught by the professor sponsoring the trip.

Nothing out of the ordinary

Lynch didn’t remember anything unusual about the trip from Charlottesville to D.C., and though she recalls Jones sitting apart from the rest of the UVA group at the theater, she didn’t necessarily think anything about that, since he wasn’t a member of the theater class, which comprised most of the students who made the trip.

The group then ate dinner together at a restaurant called Ethiopic, Lynch told the Washington Post, before returning to Charlottesville.

On the trip back, Lynch remembers a lot of talk among the students about the powerful message of the play, then more casual moments, involving Drake music playing over a speaker, the football players talking about their dreams of making it in the NFL, Lynch discussing her plans to go to medical school.

Other small moments: Lynch said Hollins, a fourth-year student on pace to graduate in December, helped her with her statistics homework.

And then: Davis charged his cellphone using Lynch’s computer, and talked to her about how he was looking forward to getting back onto the football field after having had to miss the previous two UVA Football games recovering from a concussion.

Lynch also interacted with Jones, who she said she had met earlier in the semester, when the two had tried out to be runway models for a group on Grounds called Fashion for a Cause.

“I helped him learn how to do the runway walks, and that was the first time and last time I saw him until a few days ago on the trip, actually,” Lynch said.

“Thirty minutes before the shooting occurred, I went to the back of the bus to use the bathroom, and I saw him while I was walking back, and I said, Hey, Chris, like, did you do the fashion show, like, are you doing any of the modeling, and he told me that he was too busy, and there was too much going on. And I said, Me, too, I had a lot going on and just couldn’t commit to it. And so I said, there’s one in the spring, you should try and do that one with me. And he told me he would try and do it with me.”

The bus gets back to Charlottesville

Lynch said she has replayed the end of the bus trip so many times the past 48 hours.

She remembers three of the players heading back to use the bathroom as the bus was getting near Charlottesville.

She told the Washington Post that others on the bus have since told her that they heard Jones say before opening fire something to the effect of, “You guys are always messing with me.”

“But that doesn’t make sense, because no one was really talking to him the whole trip,” Lynch said.

This is where we need to interject that family members have suggested in media interviews that Jones had told them he was being bullied, and that UVA Police Chief Tim Longo said Monday that school officials had been investigating reports of alleged hazing and an allegation that Jones had told another student that he possessed a weapon.

Longo also revealed that officials had been informed that Jones was convicted in 2021 on a concealed weapons charge that he had not reported to UVA, and that he was the subject of a university judiciary review on that matter that was still pending at the time of the shooting.

Now we’ll speculate: was Jones dealing with some undiagnosed mental health issue that led him to feel he was being bullied, and was that why he was carrying an unconcealed weapon in 2021, and possibly again at the time of the report to university officials earlier in the fall semester?

The media narrative on this part of the story also includes mention of the fact that Jones was, briefly, a member of the football program, way back in 2018.

Former UVA coach Bronco Mendenhall, who was the head coach in 2018, told ESPN that Jones, a walk-on, was only a member of the program for a brief time in the summer, and never practiced with the team.

It’s starting to seem that Jones being a former member of the program is coincidental to this story, and not what the prevailing media narrative has suggested – that there was some kind of bullying going on involving members of the football team.

What we can glean from what we’re starting to know is: he wasn’t actually being bullied by anybody, though he very much thought he was, which is why he was carrying a gun.

And also: that the football players on the bus trip were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Horror

We need to go back to Lynch, sitting on the bus as it pulled up to Culbreth Theater, around 10:15 p.m. on Sunday.

“The bus was not fully stopped, and I was sitting there, I was grabbing my things, my bookbag, just getting ready to get off in a few seconds, and then I just started hearing gunshots coming from the back of the bus,” she told ABC News. “I had no idea what it was at first. I thought it was chips, or like, balloons, I was really confused. And then after I would say the fourth gunshot, there was a like cloud of smoke that filled the bus. And after I smelled that, even though I couldn’t see anything going on in the back, I knew there was something really bad happening.

“I had a friend who was sitting across from me, and we just looked at each other, and we both got down on the floor in between the chair in front of us and the chair we were sitting in, and I put my jacket over me and my blanket. But I left my eyes out so I could just see if anyone was going through the aisles or what, just trying to see what was going on, because I was just so confused with so much chaos.

“I was told that they were screaming, but all I heard was the gunshots, and my ears were ringing,” Lynch said. “And then they just kept getting closer, the sound of the shots just kept kind of creeping up the aisle, and I saw the shooter up past me. And he passed me very slowly. I was scared that with all the shots that were fired, he had shot everyone on the bus, and I thought he was going to shoot me, too. I just sat there quiet, still, didn’t say anything. And thank goodness, he just passed me and went off the bus. And then he shot into the air again when he got off, so there was just so many shots going on everywhere. It was a lot of confusion. And then finally, I just heard my teacher yelling, Get off the bus. And there were some more people that moved off the bus.

“It felt so slow while he was on the bus firing, but once he was off, it felt really quick,” Lynch said. “And then I got up and I saw my friend Lavel to the left of me laying face flat in the middle of the aisle. And I was absolutely devastated to see him laying down. My friend who was sitting across from me, she said, we have to try and help him. We are both CPR-certified, so she checked his pulse, and it was very faint. And I was checking his body, and he had gunshots. I saw one in his head. I saw one in his back. They were just, it looked like they were all over him. He had on a bright orange sweatshirt, so you could, like, could see all of where the gunshots had hit him.

“We just told him we were going to try and do CPR, but then I realized that you can’t move a victim after they’ve been shot like that because we didn’t want to hurt him anymore. So, I said to him, we said, Lavel, we’re trying to help you, we’re gonna get help for you. There’s nothing we can do right now, but we’re gonna get help for you.”

Lynch, the future medical student, didn’t have the tools to save Lavel.

“We all sat next to each other in class. I mean, they, each one of them, are, was, just amazing,” Lynch said.

“I’m so heartbroken for them and their families. But I just really want people to know that they were really one of a kind, and they will be really missed especially in our class and by everyone that knew them.”

Chris Graham

I write books, two on UVA basketball, one on pro wrestling, one on politics, which is getting to be like pro wrestling more and more each day. I've finished three marathons, but my maranthoning days are over. I'm also a progressive who voted for Biden, but we need another Democrat in 2024. (Sorry, Joe, and thanks.) Want to reach me? Try [email protected]