University of Virginia running back Michael Hollins Jr. spoke publicly for the first time since being injured in a shooting incident that killed three of his teammates during a field trip last month.
In an exclusive interview with Pro Football Hall of Famer and co-anchor Michael Strahan for and Good Morning America that aired on Thursday (December 15), Hollins said he and another teammate had taken several steps off of the bus where the incident took place before hearing gunshots fired.
"It was just literally an instinct and a reaction to go back," Hollins said, noting that he was "just three or four steps on the bus" when he saw the suspect, Christopher Darnell Jones Jr., coming off the bus.
"I felt so hopeless and so powerless in that moment," Hollins added. "I felt him hit me in my back. But I just, I knew I wasn't goin' down without a fight."
Jones is accused of killing three Virginia football players -- Lavel Davis Jr., D'Sean Perry and Devin Chandler, who was reported to have been shot while he was sleeping -- on November 13.
Jones faces three charges of second-degree murder, three counts of using a handgun in commission of a felony and two counts of malicious wounding, each of which are accompanied by a firearm charge, CNN reports.
The 22-year-old was previously convicted in relation to a reckless driving and hit and run incident, as well as a concealed weapons charge in 2021, all of which received suspended sentences, remains in custody in Albermarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail, according to online records accessed by CNN.
Jones and the three victims attended a field trip with other UVA students to see a play in Washington, D.C. Jones opened fire on the bus after it returned to the Charlottesville campus, killing Chandler, Davis and Perry.
UVA student Ryan Lynch was among the students on the bus during the shooting and said she saw Jones initially push Davis.
“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," Lynch told KYW-TV.
“They just kept coming, more and more gunshots,” Lynch added. “We thought he was going to shoot everyone on the bus.”
Lynch said "the shooter just kind of walked or, like, skipped off the bus" after the incident took place.
The University of Virginia later admitted to knowing that Jones was previously convicted of a weapons charge weeks prior to the triple murder of three football players.
The school issued a statement obtained by NBC News confirming it had been "reviewing a potential hazing issue" after the Office of Student Affairs "heard from a student that Mr. Jones made a comment to him about possessing a gun."
"The reporting party did not see Mr. Jones in possession of a gun," the statement read. "The comment about owning a gun was not made in conjunction with a threat."
The school said it had learned that "Mr. Jones previously had been convicted of a misdemeanor for a concealed weapons violation in 2021" as its probe continued, which spokesman Brian Coy specified was discovered "around mid-September" and that the suspect "had failed to disclose a conviction to the university, which is a requirement of university policy," NBC News reports.
The Office of Student Affairs decided "to escalate his case for disciplinary action" on October 27, but officials realized that the conviction was never relayed to the University Judiciary Committee after Sunday's shooting took place, according to the university's statement.
"In the wake of the shooting yesterday, Student Affairs officials discovered that the report had not been transmitted to the University Judiciary Committee (UJC), and are working to correct that," the school said.
Jones was listed as a member of the Cavaliers football team in 2018, but didn't appear in any games.
Initial gunfire was reported at a parking garage on Culbreth Road at 10:30 p.m. Sunday near the university's drama building, the UVA Office of Emergency Management said in a tweet that has since been deleted.
"I am heartbroken to report that the shooting has resulted in three fatalities," said UVA President Jim Ryan in an email to students.
"This is a message any leader hopes never to have to send, and I am devastated that this violence has visited the University of Virginia," Ryan said.
UVA classes were cancelled for Monday as students were advised to "shelter in place" or "RUN HIDE FIGHT" by UVA's emergency management office.
Multiple agencies, including the UVA emergency management office and a Virginia State Police helicopter, were reported to have still been searching for the suspect as of 2:55 a.m. Monday.
A complete search on and around the UVA campus was conducted by law enforcement at around 6:00 a.m. on Monday as students were ordered to shelter in place.
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