2 officers killed in shooting at Bridgewater College, suspect charged with aggravated murder
BRIDGEWATER, Va. (WWBT) - Two officers are dead, and a suspect has been charged with aggravated murder following a shooting on Bridgewater College campus.
Around 1:20 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 1, Campus Police Officer John Painter and Campus Safety Officer J.J. Jefferson responded to a call about a suspicious man on the grounds near Memorial Hall.
Virginia State Police said that after a brief interaction with the man, he opened fire and shot Painter and Jefferson. The suspect ran after the 911 call went out.
The college told students to shelter in place and to “text to let your loved ones know you are okay.”
“One of my friends actually ran up to me and said, ‘Get inside. There is a shooter on campus!’ So, I and my friend just immediately ran inside,” Fourth-year student Kai Bowman said.
Massive search efforts were then underway when a man fitting the suspect’s description was found on Riverside Drive off campus, near the town of Bridgewater.
Police said the suspect, identified as Alexander Wyatt Campbell, 27, of Ashland, waded through the river to an island. That is when police took him into custody.
Police said Campbell had a non-life-threatening gunshot wound and was taken to the hospital for treatment. VSP is working to determine if he was shot by police or if it was a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Authorities said that multiple firearms associated with Campbell were recovered as evidence.
Campbell is charged with aggravated murder of more than one person, aggravated murder of law enforcement officers, one count of first-degree murder, and one count of use of a firearm in the commission of a felony. He is being held at Rockingham County Jail without bond.
Police did not comment on his status in relation to Bridgewater College.
“Today our campus community experienced 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,” Bridgewater College President David Bushman said in the email to students and staff.
Bushman said that Painter and Johnson, the two officers killed, were very close friends.
“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,” Bridgewater College President David Bushman said in the email.
Bridgewater’s police chief said Painter, 55, joined the department in May 2019 after retiring as chief of the Grottoes Police Department. Jefferson, 48, joined the department in 2018.
“Their loss is being deeply felt by our students, faculty, staff, and alumni across the globe. We keep their families in our hearts and prayers during this incredibly difficult time,” Bridgewater Police Chief Milton Franklin said in a Facebook post online.
“They were just warm and welcoming people, and the fact that this happened today for no real reason is just ridiculous,” Bowman said.
The campus community was told to shelter in place for several hours, but the order was lifted just after 4:30 p.m. During the shelter in place, Bridgewater also tweeted not to be alarmed because police were moving through the buildings and to listen to their instructions.
Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin and Attorney General Jason Miyares have been briefed on the situation and continue monitoring it.
“This is a sad and dark day for Bridgewater College. I know we all have so many questions and not many answers. One thing I do know, though, is that we will rally around one another and support each other as we move forward from this day. We are all victims, though some much more so than others, and it will be important that we each seek to find comfort and support in the ways most meaningful for us,” Bushman said in the email to students.
Multiple law enforcement agencies are assisting with the investigation.
Classes were canceled Wednesday, and Virginia State Police says personnel will be in the area until Feb. 3 as part of the ongoing investigation retracing the shooter’s movements from the time of the shooting to his arrest.
Police said that based on the evidence, this is an isolated incident. Anyone with information about the shooting is asked to contact Virginia State Police at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Classes were canceled Wednesday, and Virginia State Police says personnel will be returning to the area as part of the ongoing investigation retracing the shooter’s movements from the time of the shooting to his arrest.
Last year in October, the college was ranked as Virginia’s safest college by SafeAtLast.
A GoFundMe has been set up to help cover funeral costs for the fallen officers.
We will update this story as we learn more.
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