Two beloved campus officers were killed Tuesday during a shooting at a Virginia college that left terrified students hiding in buildings for safety.
Campus Police Officer John Painter and Campus Safety Officer J.J. Jefferson, employees at Bridgewater College in Virginia, were shot and killed after they responded to a call about a suspicious person on campus around 1:20 p.m., according to WHSV. The suspect fled on foot and was captured by 1:55 p.m. He is 27-year-old Alexander Wyatt Campbell, the television station said.
David Bushman, president of Bridgewater College, called it an “unspeakable tragedy.” The college is affiliated with the Church of the Brethren.
“Words are not adequate, not nearly so, to express the grief, sadness, fear and – justifiably – the anger we all feel,” Bushman said in a statement. “These officers were close friends, known to many of us as the ‘dynamic duo.’ John was J.J.’s best man at 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.
(2/6) Words are not adequate, not nearly so, to express the grief, sadness, fear and—justifiably—the anger we all feel. Campus Police Officer John Painter and Campus Safety Officer J.J. Jefferson were shot and killed on campus while protecting us.— Bridgewater College (@BridgewaterNews) February 2, 2022
“... I pray for that peace which passes all understanding for John and J.J.’s families and for all of us,” Bushman added.
(6/6) I pray for that peace which passes all understanding for John and J.J.’s families and for all of us. Please take care of yourself and each other.— Bridgewater College (@BridgewaterNews) February 2, 2022
Senior Tyler Tabor told WRIC he was 10 to 15 feet away from the shooter. Tabor credited the officers for keeping him and his classmates alive. He and about 15 other students hid in a bathroom during the lockdown, passing a phone around so they could call their families.
“Everyone really just had their phones and started calling their parents, calling their moms and just, it felt like almost like a last goodbye,” Tabor said.
The college community will “rally around one another and support each other,” Bushman said.
“Thank you for the support and outreach we’ve received from so many on this tragic day,” he said in a statement. “We are thankful for the efforts of countless law enforcement officials.”
Alumni set up a GoFundMe fundraiser for the families.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Chalabala
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.