Category Archives: Crime , corrections and law enforcement

UVa Policy on Threat Assessment So Flawed It Seems Intentional

by James C. Sherlock

I have reported in this space on the actions and inactions of the Threat Assessment Team (TAT) and its members at the University of Virginia in the case of the man now in jail for three murders and two woundings.

I refer readers to my previous posts for my take on the facts in that case as I know them.

In this article, I will compare

  • the state law that mandates each Virginia college and university to have a Violence Prevention Committee and a Threat Assessment Team
  • with the University of Virginia’s policy that purports to carry out the mandates of that law.

The comparison is not flattering to the University. It reveals serious flaws in the design of the violence prevention and assessment protocols that preceded the actions of that specific TAT and may have contributed to its failure in this case.

The University policy so obviously fails to meet the requirements of the governing state law to which the policy itself refers that the only conclusion I can draw is that the flaws were intentional. Incompetence cannot explain this one.

There are too many senior management sets of eyes on University policy process, including lawyers. They must have thought they had a better way.

Clearly not.

I suggest University leadership this week write and sign a policy that complies with state law. Continue reading

Alleged Shooter’s Dorm Room on UVa Property Exposed Him to University Actions Not Taken

Bice House – All photos and diagrams courtesy University of Virginia

by James C. Sherlock

Updated Nov. 19 at 8:50 AM. See details at end.

So, the University of Virginia conducted a formal threat investigation of allegations of student possession of firearms on the Grounds.

Except it really didn’t.

The accused was found after three murders and two woundings to have possessed in his dorm room a small arsenal.

The Threat Assessment Team (TAT) knew that the student had been accused of talking of possessing a gun. That was the reason the TAT was convened.

The TAT had access to State Police records including

  • his legal gun purchases;
  • his conviction in Chesterfield County on a concealed weapon charge, a misdemeanor;
  • his Petersburg conviction on a felony hit-and-run charge that was reduced to a misdemeanor; and
  • the fact that he was on suspended jail sentences for both of the crimes.

Let’s see who they sent to interview him. From the Charlottesville Daily Progress:

However, (Chief) Longo noted, neither the off-Grounds tipster nor Jones’s roommate ever saw a weapon, and Longo implied that the Office of Student Affairs unsuccessfully attempted to speak to Jones.

They sent someone from the Office of Student Affairs. On a gun-threat issue.  What could have gone wrong? It is perhaps a good thing the student refused to cooperate.

TAT members individually had all the authority and evidence they needed to inspect his room on university property, seize the weapons and, as a result, arrest and ban him from the grounds (possession of weapons on university property), expel him, and evict him from University housing.

They did none of that. They “meant” to refer him to the student-run Judiciary Committee. For a three-month wait for a trial and a stern warning or community service. The University actually announced that had happened. But that announcement was not true.

They later announced there was a “snafu.”

The student, the now-accused murderer, was treated with extreme and deadly deference by University security officials.

Three young men are dead. Continue reading

UVa’s Investigators Missed an Arsenal in Shooter’s On-Grounds Dorm Room

UVa President James Ryan. Courtesy of the University of Virginia

by James C. Sherlock

The Daily Progress just reported:

The student charged in the shooting deaths of three University of Virginia football players had a semi-automatic rifle, pistol, ammunition, magazines and a device used to make bullets fire faster in his on-Grounds dorm room, according to a search warrant inventory that the Daily Progress obtained.

What the State Police investigator “found in the room of accused triple murder Christopher Darnell Jones Jr. might have filled a duffel.” In an “on-Grounds dorm room.”

The TAT investigators interviewed his roommate. But the shooter refused to cooperate.  

So the University was helpless?

Anyone still want to talk about the thoroughness of the Threat Assessment Team (TAT) investigation and the actions of the members of that team after the investigation was over?

I have exposed those “efforts” in a series of articles to this point, culminating in tracing the bureaucratic structures that let this happen.

That bureaucracy will fight like trapped bobcats, looking for a mid-level scapegoat. They are having closed meetings as I write this.

They are likely to try to sacrifice the police chief. Because he has been the only one of them to man up. And he is not a direct report to President Ryan.

But three young men are dead.

I am not nearly done with that bureaucracy and its leader.

Who is an “Appropriate Disciplinary Authority” at UVa? Excellent Question, as it Turns Out

UVa President James Ryan. Courtesy of the University of Virginia

by James C. Sherlock

The University of Virginia, as required by state law, has a policy on Preventing and Addressing Threats of Acts of Violence.

It defines “unsanctioned possession of firearms, weapons, or other dangerous items.” as Violent or Threatening Behavior.

The policy currently states:

The (Threat Assessment Team) TAT does not serve as a disciplinary body; however, referrals will be made to the appropriate disciplinary authority regarding violent or threatening behavior per University policy.

We will find out who added that language and when, but it doesn’t matter to the outcome.  From the policy:

All University faculty, staff, students, and Medical Center employees are expected to cooperate fully with the TAT.

The shooter did not.

Some members of the TAT are appropriate disciplinary authorities.  They could have walked out of the meeting room and taken action immediately as it was their duty as security officials to do.

They did not.

They kicked it over to a student organization.

Three men died. Continue reading

AG’s Office to Review UVa Handling of Shooting Threat

Attorney General Jason Miyares has agreed to conduct an external review of the events that led up to the shooting deaths of three University of Virginia students Sunday. He will enlist special counsel to assist his office in the completion of its work, said spokesperson Victoria LaCivita.

The review will produce a report to be shared with students, families, the larger UVa community, and government officials. “The Attorney General will work with deliberate speed while ensuring that all necessary resources remain devoted to the criminal investigation being conducted by state and local authorities,” she said.

Miyares’ statement comes after a request for the review issued by the UVa Board of Visitors. In a letter to the Attorney General, Rector Witt Clement wrote the following: Continue reading

President Ryan’s Ship Has Hit the Shoals

by James C. Sherlock

This is the Nov 16, 4:35 p.m. update to my highly controversial article on the failures of the University of Virginia to act against the alleged killer of three students before the crime.

I was too gentle with the leadership of the University, my alma mater, in that article. I wrote that the University had taken grossly inadequate and counterintuitive actions ahead of the shootings.

I gave them too much credit.

They took no action at all. Only claimed they did under the heat of questions.

According to a report in The Washington Post on the evening of Nov. 15, the statement that the University put out earlier that the Threat Assessment Team (TAT) had “escalated the case (of the shooter Mr. Jones) for disciplinary action” was not true. It blamed the oversight on an “inadvertent mixup.”

Seems they had meant to refer the case to the student-run judiciary committee. Which is used to assigning sanctions like the writing of essays.

It is Dr. Ryan’s ship.

He failed in his duty to lead. The members of the TAT failed in their statutory duties assigned under Virginia law after the Virginia Tech massacre.

He set the tone, assigned a DEI member to the TAT to oversee their actions, and they followed his path.

And a disturbed young man was free to kill those three other young men and grievously wound two others. Who were on a University bus. Returning from a play.

Victims as much of the culture wars and profound incompetence in the University leadership as they were of the shooter. Continue reading

Lost Boy

by James A. Bacon

There is a disturbing sidebar to the University of Virginia mass shooting  story. Only a few hours before the murders took place at around 10:30 p.m. on Nov. 12, a rapper and minor social media celebrity, Bryan Silva, posted a disturbing message on his Facebook account:

I want u v a to know what pain and suffering is. They put me through that everyday of my life here and laughed in my face. I want them to feel how I feel. I will sell everything I have to make that pain and suffering happen.

According to one media account, a Facebook reader alerted the Charlottesville police to his comment. According to another, he threatened a neighbor with a gun; the neighbor called the police. Whatever the case, police opened an investigation, obtained a search warrant of Silva’s downtown residence, and arrested him for illegal possession of firearms and a controlled substance.

Despite the coincidence in timing, police quickly concluded that Silva’s vague threats were unrelated to the tragic shooting of three UVa football players, allegedly by UVa student Christopher Darnell Jones Jr. Media attention has focused on uncovering Jones’ background and possible motive. Understandably, Silva, whose crimes were trivial by comparison, has faded into the background. But I find Silva intriguing… and scary. Not because he represents a clear and present danger to society — although he might — but because he epitomizes so much that is tragically wrong with so many young men in our society today. Continue reading

A Time To Mourn

Thousands from the UVa community gathered on the Lawn last night to hold a vigil for Davin Chandler, Lavel Davis Jr., and D’Sean Perry.

Many questions arise from the mass shooting at the University of Virginia two days ago. Why’d he do it? Were there warning signs? Could the murders have been prevented?

There will be a time and a place to answer those questions.

But not now.

Now is the time to mourn the loss of three fine young men. Now is the time for the UVa community to come together, honor the memories of the victims, support the bereaving families, and pray for the recovery of the two students who were hospitalized from the shooting.

— JAB

UVa Slayings

by Kerry Dougherty

Unimaginable.

The fear, the dread that crept across the University of Virginia grounds Sunday night as reports of a fatal shooting spread and students were cautioned to shelter in place.

The gunman was on the loose. He was armed and dangerous.

The manhunt for Christopher Darnell Jones Jr, lasted 12 terrifying hours. He was arrested in Henrico County and charged with three counts of second-degree murder and three counts of use of a firearm in the commission of a felony.

More charges are coming. Two other young men — also football players — were wounded in the shooting. One of those students was in critical condition.

While thousands of UVA parents were relieved when their kids finally called home to say they were safe, three sets of parents received unspeakable news. Their sons, football players, had been shot to death.

Lavel Davis Jr., D’Sean Perry and Devin Chandler were gone.

The father of one of the deceased expressed the depth of his grief to The Washington Post:

“I wish it was me instead of him,” said Thaddeus Lavel Davis, his father. Lavel was his firstborn child. Continue reading

UVa Tragedy Reasonably Preventable? State Investigation Required

by James C. Sherlock

Updated Nov. 15, 2020 at 8:36 AM (see end of article)

UVa President Jim Ryan

We have two related pieces of information about the UVa tragedy that call into question the effectiveness of the University’s state-mandated threat-assessment process.

We have the statements of senior University officials.

And we have Code of Virginia § 23.1-805. Violence prevention committee; threat assessment team, which mandates:

Each public institution of higher education shall establish policies and procedures for the prevention of violence on campus, including assessment of and intervention with individuals whose behavior poses a threat to the safety of the campus community.

The statements call directly into question whether the University carried out its responsibilities under that law.

The information available suggests that the Attorney General, one of whose Deputy A.G.s is the University Counsel, will likely convene an investigation led by the State Police.

I offer some information to assist in that investigation. Continue reading

Tragedy at UVa – Suspect now in Custody – Troubling Reports about UVa Police Effectiveness

by James C. Sherlock

D’Sean Perry. Courtesy of the Charlottesville Daily Progress

From the Charlottesville Daily Progress:

“Sean Perry, 22, and a linebacker and defensive end for the University of Virginia football team, is one of three people who was shot dead at Culbreth Garage on UVa Central Grounds at the University of Virginia Sunday night, Perry’s father Sean Perry confirmed Monday morning.

UVa President Jim Ryan said in an email to the community early Monday morning that three students had been killed in the Sunday night shooting. The names of the two other victims who were killed are not available at this time, nor are the names of the two victims who lived.

Classes are cancelled today.

Continue reading

Fredericksburg is the Crime Capital of Virginia

Fredericksburg area crime rate map.

by James C. Sherlock

wrote Friday that Fredericksburg has a major crime problem.

After hours of plowing through state crime statistics for 2021, I can now declare Fredericksburg the crime capital of Virginia.

Public safety is the number one job of local government, followed by running its schools.

The statistics suggest the Fredericksburg law enforcement system — the courts, the Commonwealth’s Attorney and the police department — and the school system have failed.

Fredericksburg may wish to acknowledge that by doing something about it. I suggested reversion to town status. I don’t expect that to happen, at least anytime soon.

The Fredericksburg criminal justice system does not work.

  • I don’t have access to their court data, but the Commonwealth’s Attorney proudly does not want to lock criminals up. She call that type of prosecution “community facing.” I call it community defacing.
  • The state Office of Criminal Justice Services currently accredits 104 Virginia law enforcement agencies (LEAs) that meet commonly accepted professional standards for efficient and effective agency operation established by the Virginia Law Enforcement Professional Standards Commission (VLESPSC). But not the Fredericksburg police.
  • Yet Fredericksburg has the largest drug crime problem per capita of any medium or large jurisdiction in the state.

Something needs to wake them up. Continue reading

Will Fredericksburg Revert to Being a Town?

Fredericksburg Virginia Crime Rate Map (Courtesy Neighborhood Scout). Mary Washington University is the light sliver in the center of the worst crime

by James C. Sherlock

There are two major reasons that Virginians organize themselves into local governments:

  1. public safety; and
  2. public schools for their children.

Fredericksburg has proven unable to provide either competently. It’s record is unapproachably bad given its assets.

We have documented its deplorable schools. When I wrote in that piece that they need a new superintendent, I failed to understand the crime picture and undershot the solution.

In 2021, the State Police reported that Fredericksburg had an incredibly high Group A crime rate (Crimes against persons, property and society).

Nearly the worst in the state. I admit that it shocked me.

Neither the crime rate nor the bad schools finds easy excuses in demographics or poverty. I will offer the census figures to prove it.

Fredericksburg’s schools and crime rates are literally breathtakingly bad for no identifiable reason other than governmental incompetence.

The city may wish to consider reverting to a town, either by vote of the City Council or by citizen initiative, and let either Stafford County or Spotsylvania County take over responsibilities its current government has proven it cannot handle. Continue reading

Sanctuary Sell-Out

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney

by Jon Baliles

If you time warp all the way back to early 2017 (which on some days seems like 30 years ago), then-newly-sworn-in Mayor Levar Stoney issued a directive that Richmond would be a sanctuary city in opposition to then-newly-sworn-in President Trump’s executive orders on immigration (that were later struck down). Many cities across the country issued similar orders/directives.

City of Richmond employees, including police, would not ask anyone about their immigration status or cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in deporting anyone in the country illegally. Stoney said on the day of the announcement, “That is not the country we are. That is not the city we will be.”

The Mayor’s directive said, in part: “in the interest of public safety and protecting communities, will maintain its policy of not inquiring as to the place of birth or immigration status of individuals with whom it comes into contact.”

If you recall the hubbub surrounding this, the directive did not actually use the term “sanctuary city,” and Richmond for years had been not working cooperatively with ICE on immigration matters. The same applied to Henrico and Chesterfield and Hanover — none of the regions’ governments or law enforcement had any such working arrangement. In fact, nationwide in 2017, there were only 38 police departments that had a signed working agreement with ICE, and only one in Virginia (Prince William County).

Why does that matter now, in 2022?

Well, that’s because the directive and sentiment from 2017 was voided by the Mayor when he and the former police chief took credit for stopping the July 4th alleged mass shooting that wasn’t, but which made them both stars for a few days on cable TV news about stopping gun violence. Continue reading

Virginia Needs to Adopt the Uniform Act on Prevention of and Remedies for Human Trafficking

by James C. Sherlock

Seldom can we mitigate bad problems with solutions that work and are handed us on a platter. But we can do that in Virginia in the case of human trafficking.

The Department of Justice defines human trafficking as follows:

Human trafficking, also known as trafficking in persons, is a crime that involves compelling or coercing a person to provide labor or services, or to engage in commercial sex acts. The coercion can be subtle or overt, physical or psychological. Exploitation of a minor for commercial sex is human trafficking, regardless of whether any form of force, fraud, or coercion was used.

The last time we had good numbers on arrests only, there were 5,000 arrests related to suspected trafficking in Virginia between 2012 and 2019.  Yet even now, the Commonwealth’s Trafficking Coordinator wrote at the end of last year that nearly all of the charges have been brought against buyers and sellers of prostitution, not traffickers.

The Uniform Law Commission (ULC), established in 1892, provides states with non-partisan legislation that brings clarity and stability to critical areas of state statutory law.

It has since 2013 offered the Uniform Act on the Prevention of and Remedies for Human Trafficking (Uniform Act). This act has been adopted by at least nine states and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

While Governor Youngkin signed a spate of new laws in June of this year, a big improvement, Virginia laws on human trafficking remain scattered all over the Code of Virginia.  The only Virginia law against it is § 18.2-355. The laws remain woefully inadequate.

The Uniform Act is ready to submit. Both parties in the General Assembly should sponsor it and adopt it unanimously in the upcoming session. Continue reading