Officers Shot, Killed at Virginia College Were Best Friends

A man opened fire on the Bridgewater College officers when they approached him, police say

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The two officers shot and killed on the campus of Bridgewater College Tuesday were more than colleagues. They were best friends.

Bridgewater College Police Officer John Painter and Campus Safety Officer J.J. Jefferson approached a suspicious man on the campus in the Shenandoah Valley, when the man opened fire.

Officer Jefferson grew up in Fauquier County and previously worked at Shenandoah University, where colleagues say he built strong relationships with everyone on campus.

"[I have] very fond memories of being at a basketball game or a soccer game, cheering on our students, and J.J. showing up, sort of doing rounds, but stopping and cheering on students, knowing them by name," Shenandoah University President Tracy Fitzsimmons said.

Last year, Jefferson married his wife Shannon, a Shenandoah alumna. Painter was his best man.

"They were just warm and welcoming people," Bridgewater student Kai Bowman said.

Bowman said he heard the gunshots.

"One of my friends ran up to me and he was screaming, like, 'Get inside now! There's a shooter on campus,'" he said.

About 1,500 students sheltered in place while police searched for the suspected shooter, who police say waded through a river in an attempt to escape.

A team of officers with their weapons drawn closed in and arrested 27-year-old Alexander Wyatt Campbell.

Campbell was suffering from a non-life-threatening gunshot wound, state police said. It’s unclear if he was shot by an officer or if it was self-inflicted.

Alexander Wyatt Campbell
Rockingham County Jail
Alexander Wyatt Campbell

He was treated at Rockingham Memorial Hospital.

Police said they recovered multiple firearms associated with Campbell as evidence.

Virginia State Police charged Campbell 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, state police said. He is being held without bond.

Bridgewater is a private liberal arts college 8 miles southwest of Harrisonburg.

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