Two officers shot and killed at Bridgewater College, suspect facing 5 charges

Published: Feb. 1, 2022 at 1:30 PM EST
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BRIDGEWATER, Va. (WHSV) - College officials report that there was an active shooter on the Bridgewater College campus. A Bridgewater College Campus Law Enforcement Officer and Campus Safety Officer were shot during this incident. A suspect is now in custody.

At approximately 1:20 p.m. Feb. 1, 2022, the Bridgewater College Police Department, Town of Bridgewater Police Department, Virginia State Police, Rockingham County Sheriff’s Office, City of Harrisonburg Police, Augusta Sheriff’s Office, Town of Dayton Police Department, FBI, and the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries responded to a report of an active shooter on the Bridgewater College campus.

Campus Police Officer John Painter and Campus Safety Officer J.J. Jefferson were shot and killed.

The initial report came in that Painter and Jefferson had responded to a call of a suspicious individual was on campus in Memorial Hall. After a brief interaction, 27-year-old Alexander Wyatt Campbell, opened fire and shot both officers.

Campbell then fled on foot and was located on Riverside Drive in Bridgewater. By 1:55 p.m., the male shooter, Campbell, was taken into police custody. The suspect was taken to Sentara RMH for a non-life-threatening gunshot wound, where he was treated and released. He is being held without bond at Rockingham County Regional Jail.

Virginia State Police are still working to determine how the suspect was shot.

Campbell was charged with 2 felony counts of capital murder, one felony count of first-degree murder, and one felony count of use of a firearm in the commission of a felony. VSP filed an additional charge of aggravated felony murder of more than 1 person within 3 years. Campbell’s next court date, a status hearing, is scheduled for Feb. 16 at 1 p.m.

Bridgewater College confirms that Campbell was once a member of the Bridgewater College track & field and cross country teams. According to court documents, he had four years of education but dropped out of Bridgewater College. He had also been banned from the main dining hall on campus, court records showed.

“I want to offer our condolences, our prayers, our hearts to J.J.’s family, John’s family. Words will never be enough to express our sadness and grief,” Dr. David W. Bushman, President of Bridgewater College, said during a press conference Tuesday night.

Governor Glenn Youngkin issued this statement following the active shooter event at Bridgewater College:

“My heart is broken tonight by the tragic loss of two officers at Bridgewater College today. These officers were dedicated to protecting the students and faculty of the college and I have ordered that the flags of the United States of America and the Commonwealth of Virginia be flown at half-staff tomorrow to honor their memory and courageous efforts. The First Lady and I ask Virginians to keep their family, friends, and the Bridgewater community in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.”

Congressman Ben Cline (R), representing the sixth district of Virginia, issued a statement on Twitter:

“I’m shocked and saddened by the tragic events that occurred at Bridgewater College today. My prayers are with the families of Campus Officers John Painter and J.J. Jefferson who were killed while protecting students and our community.”

Harrisonburg Mayor Deanna Reed released a statement as well:

“The City of Harrisonburg and Harrisonburg City Council mourn tonight over the terrible tragedy experienced in Bridgewater today. Our hearts go out to the family of Campus Police Officer John Painter, Campus Safety Officer JJ Jefferson, and our Bridgewater College family. We ask all in our community to keep the families and students in your thoughts and prayers. Let us all reflect tonight and be grateful for the sacrifices made by our law enforcement officers and their families to protect our communities. We stand in solidarity with our neighboring community and the Bridgewater College faculty, staff, and students.”

Rockingham County Public Schools offered kind words for the two fallen officers:

“Rockingham County Public Schools extends our sincerest condolences and sympathies to the families of police officer John Painter and security officer J.J. Jefferson. We stand together with Bridgewater College while our students and families process this immense loss in our community. During his time as Chief of Police in Grottoes, John Painter and his staff kept a watchful eye on South River Elementary. We also want to recognize and thank the School Resources Officers (SROs) who work daily in Rockingham County Public Schools to protect our students and staff.”

Bridgewater College alumni have started a GoFundMe. The organizers prepared the following statement:

“In less than 24 hours, the Bridgewater community has come together to raise over $28,000 for the families of our heroes, John Painter and J.J Jefferson, and we won’t stop there. While we can never fully repay these brave men for the sacrifice they made to keep our campus community safe, we can attempt to provide some comfort to their loved ones. That is the purpose of this fund. We ask that those who feel compelled and are able to contribute to the GoFundMe be as generous as possible.”

All classes and Bridgewater College events will be cancelled for the remainder of this week. Classes will resume on Monday, Feb. 7.

This investigation is ongoing.

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