2 Bridgewater College Police Officers Killed in Campus Shooting

Bridgewater College President David Bushman said the officers, John Painter and J.J. Jefferson, were best friends.

2 Bridgewater College Police Officers Killed in Campus Shooting

Police Officer John Painter (left) and Campus Safety Officer J.J. Jefferson (right) were shot and killed while pursuing the suspect. (Photo: Bridgewater Police Department)

UPDATE FEBRUARY 3, 2022, 6:57 A.M. PACIFIC: The mother of the man suspected of killing two Bridgewater College police officers apologized for the shooting and said her son is mentally ill, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch.  Cheryl Campbell told the news publication she has been trying to get him help but was unable to do so because he is an adult.


ORIGINAL FEBRUARY 2, 2022 ARTICLE:

BRIDGEWATER, Va. — A man is facing capital murder charges after Virginia police say he shot and killed two campus police officers Tuesday at Bridgewater College.

Around 1:20 p.m., police officer John Painter, 55, and campus safety officer J.J. Jefferson, 48, responded to a call of a suspicious man near Memorial Hall, CNN reports. The officers had a brief interaction with the suspect before he shot them and ran away. Painter and Jefferson both died on campus.

Authorities from several surrounding agencies responded to the area and began searching for the suspect. A man fitting the suspect’s description was located off-campus on Riverside Drive. The suspect, 27-year-old Alexander Wyatt Campbell, then waded through a river to an island where police took him into custody.

In a video taken by a witness, a helicopter circled above the scene and police K-9s could be heard barking. Officers could also be heard repeatedly yelling, “Show me your hands.”

Virginia State Police said Campbell suffered a non-life-threatening gunshot wound and was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment. Authorities are working to determine if he was shot by police or if it was self-inflicted. Multiple firearms associated with Campbell were recovered as evidence, according to NBC 12.

Campbell, who is being held at Rockingham County Jail without bond, has been charged with two counts of capital murder, one count of first-degree murder, and one count of use of a firearm in the commission of a felony. Witnesses told reporters he was a former student and ran cross country for the school.

Students were told to shelter in place during the incident. The order was lifted around 4:30 p.m.

In an email to students and staff, Bridgewater College President David Bushman called the incident an “unspeakable tragedy.”

“Two members of the Bridgewater College family were senselessly and violently taken from us. The sadness is palpable. Words are not adequate, not nearly so, to express the grief, sadness, fear and—justifiably—the anger we all feel,” he wrote. “These officers were close friends, known to many of us as the “dynamic duo.” John was J.J.’s best man in his wedding this year. They were beloved by students, faculty and staff. I hurt for their families and loved ones, as I know we all do.”

Painter joined the department in May 2019 after retiring as chief of the Grottoes Police Department. Grottoes Mayor Jo Plaster said Painter worked on the force for 18 years, starting as an officer before becoming chief shortly after.

Before joining the department in 2018, Jefferson worked and took classes at Shenandoah University for six years. In a statement, Shenandoah President Tracy Fitzsimmons said Jefferson received an award for his efforts to re-envision campus safety by focusing on relationships between students and the community.

Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin ordered flags be flown at half-staff Wednesday in honor of the officers.

In a phone interview with The New York Times, student Alex Hulleman said he was in class when he heard gunshots.

“We all immediately just dropped to the floor,” he said, adding that two people sat up against the door to the classroom while his professor called 911. After some time, Hulleman said the professor looked out the window and saw the two wounded officers.

Hulleman said students were in disbelief once they learned who the officers were and that they were “two of the nicest people on campus.”

“It was almost unbelievable to us,” he continued. “They always said hi to people, always greeted people — amazing, upstanding citizens.”

About the Author

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Amy is Campus Safety’s Senior Editor. Prior to joining the editorial team in 2017, she worked in both events and digital marketing.

Amy has many close relatives and friends who are teachers, motivating her to learn and share as much as she can about campus security. She has a minor in education and has worked with children in several capacities, further deepening her passion for keeping students safe.

In her free time, Amy enjoys exploring the outdoors with her family.

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