UPDATE — The press conference expected to go LIVE at 10:30 a.m. had technical difficulties, and was unable to be live-streamed from the law office. A video of the conference was later uploaded to YouTube here.
RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The parents of D’Sean Perry — one of three University of Virginia football players killed in an on-campus shooting in November — have spoken to the media for the first time since their son’s death last month.
D’Sean’s father, Sean Perry, described the month following the tragic loss of his son to gun violence as unimaginably hard on his family.
“It’s been very difficult because everything in the house, we have pictures and we have to walk by his room. We had to go to clean up his apartment,” Sean said. “So everything is… it’s in that room and it’s locked up. But we still have to pass that every day and [we are] just missing him.”
D’Sean was shot and killed alongside Lavel Davis Jr. and Devin Chandler on Sunday, Nov. 13 while on a bus full of students returning back to the university campus after a field trip. Two additional students, Marlee Morgan and Michael Hollins, were also injured in the shooting.
His mother, Happy Perry, described her son as “the life of the party,” and as the “prankster of the family,” saying he was always looking to get a laugh out of his loved ones. She said there was never a dull moment with D’Sean.
“My son was a loving, caring young man. He loved his family. He loved his teammates. And this is heartbreaking,” she said.
D’Sean was a junior linebacker and defensive end on the University football team. His mother said as a child, he was competitive and athletic, he even practiced karate. But Happy said he really found his niche in football.
A native of south Florida, D’Sean was named the South Florida Conference’s 2018 Defensive Player of the Year as a senior at Gulliver Prep in Miami. In his UVA debut as a sophomore in 2020, he returned an interception for an 84-yard touchdown on the final play — the second-longest “pick 6” by a linebacker in program history.
But D’Sean’s parents explained there was more to their son than just football. He was also closely involved in his community and social justice causes, and could often be found discussing politics and religion.
“D’Sean loved his community and everything that he did, he did to make us proud,” his mother said. “He would come home on his breaks, go to the local parks, throw footballs with the kids, go back to work, help out his coaches, go to the elementary school that’s right around the corner and play basketball with the kids. So he was just a fun-loving young man that did everything right.”
A university student, Christopher Darnell Jones Jr., was identified as the alleged shooter in the November tragedy and was taken into custody Monday, Nov. 14 in Henrico County after a 12-hour manhunt. Jones made his first in-person court appearance on Dec. 8 and faces three counts of second-degree murder and three counts of using a handgun in the commission of a felony in connection to the killings.
Happy said what happened to her son could happen to anyone’s child and advised parents to be involved in their kids’ lives — especially when it comes to mental health.
“When you see the red flags, seek help, seek help,” she pleaded. “It was my child this time. Next time it could be yours.”
Since their son’s death, the Perrys have become advocates for mental health and gun violence laws, saying change is needed now more than ever. Their lawyer, Michael Haggard, Managing Partner of The Haggard Law Firm, said the family hopes to make a difference in the loopholes gun sellers and manufacturers take advantage of in federal gun laws. Haggard went on to say the University itself made a mistake when it failed to conduct its threat assessment against Jones properly.
D’Sean’s family is also reaching out to the public for help in their fight.
“I’m asking that the football world takes a stand and join us in this fight,” Happy said. “I’m asking that all social media outlets be taken and become a part of what we’re about right now — and it is gun violence laws and mental health awareness — so that we can put a stop to what happened to my family, and so that won’t happen to other families in America.”
Sean Perry echoed his wife’s statement, asking for the support of the college football world and players with large public platforms to stand with them, and make a statement.
“Just give a voice to your voices. There are thousands of voices out there,” he said.