Shortly after learning that three UVA students were shot and killed Sunday night with two others injured, the victim’s friends, family, and community were given some good news: the suspect, who had been on the run for 12 hours, had finally been caught. But before they could breathe a sigh of relief, the unbearable pain of losing a loved one began to sink in.
The three men — Devin Chandler, Lavel Davis Jr., and D’Sean Perry — were all members of the UVA football team. (The identities of the injured victims have not yet been confirmed). Their alleged killer, Christopher Darnell Jones Jr., was also a former member of the team.
In the wake of the tragic and all-too-common incident, those who loved and cherished Chandler, Davis, and Perry have paid tribute to the legacy that the athletes leave behind.
Devin Chandler was a second-year student and a wide receiver hailing from Virginia Beach, Virginia, though he began his prep career at Tennessee’s Arlington High School and completed his senior year at North Carolina’s William Amos Hough High School. The honor roll student found a calling in track and field before lending his skills completely to the sport of football. He previously played two seasons with the Wisconsin Badgers.
“There’s nothing much I can say other than say how great of a man Devin was,” Lauren Dempsey, who attended high school with Chandler in Tennessee, told Rolling Stone. “He truly was the kindest and must genuine human I ever had the honor of knowing. I will forever remember him as the amazing human he was.”
In a separate tribute on Instagram, she wrote: “To Dev, My heart is broken today thinking about you not being here anymore. Thank you for showing me what it meant to have a best friend and for being the one there through every phase, breakup, and tough time during the 4 years of high school.”
“You were a light in everyone’s life and always knew how to make everyone around you laugh. I wish I knew how to put into words my love for you. Thank you for being you and for being a friend to me for so many years. I will always be honored to tell anyone I can about the years I had with you as my best friend.”
Piper Lee, who often shared dance videos featuring Chandler with her large TikTok audience, told Rolling Stone, “Devin was a genuine soul. He was the light in everyone’s darkness. He was always on the positive side and always the first person to pick someone up if they needed help. He was the last person who deserved something like this. Just send prayers for his family and his closest friends who are grieving over such a huge loss. Devin always told me to work hard and to never let anyone stop me from being the shining light in the dark world.” Lee also remembered him in a post, saying: “To my sweet big bubba, you will never know how much you mean to me. If I would’ve known our conversation the other day would’ve been the last one we had I would’ve never hung up the phone. I’d do anything to have you surprise me one more time.
“You taught me so many things growing up. From teaching me how to dance to just showing me how to be a light in a world full of darkness I’ll forever carry your advice with me,” Lee continued. “You were the best role model, protector, etc. to me. I will always work hard for you. I’ll never stop being your mini me. I love you more than you will ever know.”
Lavel Davis Jr.
Lavel Davis was a third-year student from Richville, South Carolina. The wide receiver began his football career at Woodland High School, in addition to playing basketball and running track. Davis hit the ground running at UVA, finishing Number Two in the nation in 2020 before a 2021 injury sidelined him for the season. When he returned this year, it was with a fervor that landed him on the 2022 Comeback Player of the Year watch list. Jack Hamilton, an associate professor at UVA, paid tribute to his students: Davis was his student this semester and Chandler was in his class in Spring 2022.
“Lavel was quieter than devin (at least in my experience) but was also such a nice guy,” Hamilton shared on Twitter. “After our first day of class this semester he made a point to come up and shake my hand and told me I should call him vel.”
“One thing that struck me about vel was how much his classmates liked him and vice versa,” Hamilton continued. “In my experience star athletes often tend to hang out with other athletes (understandable, given the time commitment) but vel seemed to go out of his way to make friends with non-athletes.”
Hamilton added: “I am just stunned and devastated and completely at a loss but wanted to say all this because they were great people with truly limitless futures and they should still be here. it breaks my heart.”
D’Sean Perry was a fourth-year student from Miami, Florida and had played linebacker since his high school days at Gulliver Prep. In 2018, he was named South Florida Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year. Perry’s collegiate debut arrived in 2020 with a win, carrying over into 2021 when he appeared in six games.
“D’Sean, I’m at a loss for words right now,” Tulane University quarterback Carson Haggard wrote on Instagram. “You were one of the most genuine, kind, and funny people I’ve ever met. Thank you for taking me under your wing and being my big brother. Can’t believe that you’re gone but you will never be forgotten. Love you brother.”
Jairus Satiu, an offensive linebacker at UVA, celebrated Perry in a tribute post that lauded his influence beyond the field. “I strive to be like D’sean Perry,” he wrote. “Words really can’t describe how much you mean to me. D’sean was the most creative, calm, and kind person you’d ever meet. D’sean was quiet when we first met but so was I. He made everyone feel welcome didn’t matter what you were into there was always a way to find a connection.”
“You could feel his confidence and strength just by standing near him. He took crap from no one even when he stood alone. He would fight for his friends anytime anyplace and he showed me that daily. He taught me empathy and to never judge. He showed me you can be positive even when times are hard. D’sean is the definition of a true friend. Everyone needs a hitman. I am honored to have met you and spent time with you. I will love and miss you forever bro.”
Ari Herman, who worked alongside the UVA football team while studying to be an athletic trainer, shared a lengthy tribute on social media, as well. “There is nothing that can be said or done to bring back the lives that didn’t deserve to go,” she wrote. “There is no way to make a place that felt like home feel safe again. losing a friend, a teammate, a classmate, or even someone whose name you’ve read about before has no remedy. Grief hits like a brick wall, leaving you feel hopeless and sick. no matter who you are, you are suffering a loss – a loss of safety, a loss of peace, a loss of a life you once knew.”
“Hug your people, tell them you love them. every single day and every moment is so precious. These words seem absolutely useless, but in times like this, it’s all I know to do. I am sincerely praying for peace and safety. to my uva community, especially the football community, i love you so much. I am absolutely so blessed to know you. My heart is with you all.”
During their time at UVA this past year, Chandler, Davis, and Perry were guided by Fralin Family Head Football Coach Tony Elliott.
Elijah Gaines, a cornerback on the UVA team, remembered his teammates in an emotional social media post. “I shouldn’t even be making a post like this and I never thought that I would have to man,” he wrote. “My three brothers: Lavel, D’Sean, and Devin. All of them taken away from not only me but a whole family of people that had nothing but love for these wonderful young men.”
“I wish the circumstances were different and that I could give each one of y’all a hug one last time and tell you how much I love you because I did like no other. All three of y’all were truly blood brothers. We went through so many trials and tribulations as teammates but more so as brothers which created an everlasting bond. I truly love and miss y’all boys man. All three of you will forever live on through me in everything I do. I love y’all man.”