6 months later: Bridgewater continues to move forward after shooting

Published: Aug. 1, 2022 at 6:53 PM EDT
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BRIDGEWATER, Va. (WHSV) - Monday marked six months since the shooting at Bridgewater College that killed Campus Police Officer John Painter and Campus Safety Officer J.J. Jefferson.

February 1, 2022 was a day many will never forget. On Monday, people in Bridgewater and the town’s police chief recounted the day of the shooting and how the community has been healing in the months since.

“It was scary, very scary that that could happen here. You know Bridgewater’s not that big a town but it’s growing and that was sad, very sad,” said Regena Curry, a Bridgewater resident who was working in town on the day of the shooting.

Those who live in Bridgewater were shaken by the tragedy. One man said that the days immediately after the shooting were like nothing he’d ever seen in the small town.

“I wouldn’t say I’ve ever felt this town on edge before but for a good few weeks, people were on edge, looking around a lot more. It’s a strange feeling out here but everything now seems real quiet, back to normal,” said Torrey Meyer, a Bridgewater resident.

Bridgewater Police Chief Philip Read said that not a day goes by where he and his department don’t think about February 1. He said J.J. Jefferson and John Painter’s sacrifices show what it truly means to wear the uniform.

“It’s just a huge reminder when we put this uniform on of what the ultimate cost could be and why we do what we do,” said Chief Read.

Read said that over the past several months his department has reviewed the incident to see what lessons can be learned.

“We want to always learn from every police call for service we’ve done so we’re looking at everything from different equipment to training. Getting active shooter training for all the officers which we’ve done in years past,” he said.

Read said his department has also reviewed all of its MOUs and police assistance agreements over the last six months. The Bridgewater Police Department has also worked closely with the Bridgewater Campus Police Department since the shooting.

“We’re going to continue actively patrolling the campus and supporting and helping out the campus police, obviously they were understaffed after the incident for a while so we even picked up more then and now we’re continuing to support them in that role,” said Read.

Read added that he is grateful for all the support the community gave to him and his department following the shooting.

“I just want to tell the community thank you so much for your loving support, your prayers, and support for us over this year. We’re out there every day and every night, we’re available 24/7 and you can reach out to us with any questions or concerns, anytime you need us we’re there,” he said.

Read said there are plans to honor Jefferson and Painter in the town’s first responder memorial garden at Oakdale Park.

Bridgewater College sent a statement on the anniversary of the shooting.

“As a community, we have worked very hard to move forward during these past months. We are excited to soon welcome students back to campus to begin the fall semester. We plan to dedicate a memorial site on campus to officers Painter and Jefferson later this academic year,” said Abbie Parkhurst, Bridgewater’s Vice President of Marketing and Communications.

The suspect in the shooting, Alexander Wyatt Campbell, faces five felony charges -- use of a firearm in a felony, first-degree murder, aggravated murder of multiple people, aggravated murder of law enforcement officers, and aggravated murder of multiple people in three years.

He is slated for court on October 26 at 9 a.m.

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