The parents of one of the three University of Virginia football players shot and killed last month in a shooting on a bus spoke out for the first time this week.
In a news conference Thursday, Happy and Sean Perry talked about their son, D'Sean Perry, called for changes to gun laws, and for college football athletes to advocate for those changes as well as for mental health issues, as reported by CNN.
D’Sean was shot and killed alongside Lavel Davis Jr. and Devin Chandler on Nov. 13 while on a bus full of students returning to campus after a field trip. Two additional students were also injured in the shooting.
D’Sean, 22, had been talking to his mom, Happy Perry, but “his cell phone had gone dead,” his mother said in an interview with NBC that aired Wednesday.
“I had just gotten off the phone with him,” Happy Perry told the program. “I’m broken."
The Perrys were making their first rounds of interviews since D'Sean's death.
“(College athletes) can stand with us with gun laws – make a statement – and just let them know that they’re behind us,” D’Sean’s father, Sean Perry, told reporters in Coral Gables, Fla., near where the family lives.
“(We want) to make sure another family will never, never go through this again,” Sean Perry said.
The holidays have provided difficult reminders of their loss, Happy Perry said.
“We were trying to put up the Christmas tree to give a little bit of hope in the house. D’Sean was 6-foot-5, so he was always our tree topper,” the mother said Thursday.
The suspect in the UVA shooting, former UVA walk-on football player Christopher Darnell Jones Jr., faces three second-degree murder charges and three counts of using a handgun in the commission of a felony, authorities said, as reported by CNN. Jones also faces two counts of malicious wounding, each accompanied by a firearm charge.
Jones had his first court appearance on Nov. 16 and the court ordered that he be held without bond. He remains in custody in Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail, according to online records.
D’Sean’s parents explained there was more to their son than just football. WRIC-TV reported that D'Sean was 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.”
Happy said that what happened to her son could happen to anyone’s child. She 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."