A devastated community in Charlottesville, Virginia came together on Saturday to honor Devin Chandler, Lavel Davis Jr. and D’Sean Perry. Dozens of athletes, friends, family and other community members were overcome with tears as they gathered at the memorial to remember the three University of Virginia football players who were shot and killed on a charter bus after returning from a school field trip, ESPN reports.
Photos of the three student-athletes were displayed on stage while the Chandler, Davis and Perry families sat in the front row. The entire football team sat in the rows behind the families while athletic director Carla Williams and other administrators took their seat on the stage. The tribute also included a performance from The MLK Community Choir, as well as Grammy Award-winning gospel singer CeCe Winans, who sang “Goodness of God.”
Williams shared heartwarming stories about the three student-athletes. The athletic director started with Chandler, reminding the audience that he we was known as “Devin the Dancing Machine” to his family.
The athletic director said Chandler’s uncle showed her a video of 10-year-old Devin arriving at track practice early, getting out of the car and “proceeding to put on a one-kid dance-off in the parking lot.”
Speaking about Davis, Williams said his family remembers how much he loved his grandmother’s cooking.
“He especially loved the 18 scrambled eggs she would make for him,” Williams said.
Perry, Williams said, got a red Power Ranger for Halloween when he was 6 and he didn’t take it off until after Thanksgiving.
Virginia linebacker Chico Bennett Jr. also fought tears as he spoke about Davis at the memorial.
“The grief, the loss, the heartache, the loss will never be gone,” Bennett said. “Now we just learn how to manage it. But rather than being sad, I’ll remember the smile and do right by you and continue to chase our common dreams of graduating and continuing our football careers. Oh, what I would give to see that smile of yours just one more time. Unfortunately, I cannot, but I know you are smiling up there and so far that I will do the same down here. I love you, little brother.”
Cornerback Elijah Gaines remembers Davis’ love for his hometown of Ridgeville, South Carolina.
“I swear Lavel would make Ridgeville sound like it was the biggest city in the world,” Gaines said. “I’m pretty sure there’s only 2,000 people there. He had this one tattoo on his arm, 187. I’m like, ‘Is that your area code?’ He’s like, ‘Nah it’s my exit.’ I’m like, ‘An exit? Why you repping an exit?’ ‘That’s where I’m from!'”
Kicker Will Bettridge, who played with Perry in youth football, high school and at Virginia, said he looked up to his friend.
“You were a role model to me, and a mentor to me as I watched your every move and I wanted to be just like you,” Bettridge said. “You were a rock star in the community, giving back and helping others and doing everything for everyone before yourself. Your presence was felt each and every day I was able to share it with you. You were the first one to be there with me after a make or a miss. Your outlook on life never changed.”
Running back Cody Brown said Chandler had a special gift.
“You lit our lives up like a shining star in the sky. You had a special gift when it came to talking to people, making them laugh, making them feel loved. It didn’t matter if it was someone you didn’t know at all, you could talk to them like you knew them for years,” Brown said. “Your joy for life was contagious and you made them happy. You were always true to yourself — it was your world and we’re just living in it.”
According to CNN, the UVA students were shot when they were returning to the Charlottesville campus after they went to see a play in Washington, D.C.
Running back Mike Hollins was also shot, but he survived and remains in the hospital. Another student, Marlee Morgan, is recovering at home after also being shot on the bus.
The suspected shooter, 22-year-old Christopher Darnell Jones Jr., faces multiple charges after allegedly opening fire on the bus. The charges include three counts of second-degree murder and three counts of using a handgun in the commission of a felony.
UVA student Ryan Lynch spoke about what she saw on the bus during the shooting.
“Chris got up and pushed Lavel,” Lynch told KYW-TV. “After he pushed him, he was like ‘You guys are always messing with me.’ Said something weird like that, but it was very bizarre because they didn’t talk to him the whole trip.”
Gunfire then erupted according to Lynch.
“They just kept coming, more and more gunshots,” she said. “We thought he was going to shoot everyone on the bus.”
The shooter, according to the witness, “just kind of walked or, like skipped off the bus” after carrying out the attack.