College shooting suspect charged with murder of two officers is currently held without bond


BRIDGEWATER, VA — A college police officer and a campus safety officer were killed during an active shooter incident on campus at Bridgewater College on Tuesday.

Bridgewater College sent an email to students and staff that identified the fallen officers as Bridgewater College Police Officer John Painter and Campus Safety Officer J.J. Jefferson.

Daily News-Record reported:

“John Painter, former Grottoes police chief and Bridgewater campus officer, was killed along with safety officer J.J. Jefferson.

“Painter stepped down as chief of the Rockingham County town in 2019 after 18 years with the department. 

“Jefferson was a former Department of Public Safety sergeant at Shenandoah University in Winchester, a position he took on in 2013. He studied at the school between 2012 and 2018, according to a press release from the school.”

A 27-year-old suspect, Alexander Wyatt Campbell, was captured and then charged by Virginia State Police (VSP) with killing both officers on Feb. 1, according to Daily News-Record’s report.

Law enforcement is still investigating the shooting and a potential motive.

Campbell’s last known address was in Ashland, Virginia, which is about two hours east of the college.

The same report further noted:

“Campbell has been charged by VSP with two felony counts of capital murder, one felony count of first degree murder and a felony count of use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, according to the Virginia State Police.

“The charges have been filed after consultation with Marsha Garst, Rockingham County commonwealth’s attorney, and more charges may be forthcoming as the investigation proceeds, according to VSP.”

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According to the report, Campbell’s first appearance at the Harrisonburg/Rockingham General District Court was scheduled for Feb. 2 at 1 p.m., according to courthouse staff.

Daily News-Record’s Ian Munro reported that Campbell had been granted a public defender, who motioned for a status hearing to determine the suspect’s state of mental health. The 1 p.m. hearing is set for Feb. 16.

On Facebook, alleged raw video footage of the suspect’s capture was posted by David W Yarber.

VSP spokesperson Corrine Geller confirmed during a press conference that Campbell was being held at the Rockingham County Jail without bond.

News Nation correspondent Evan Lambert reported that a Bridgewater College spokesperson confirmed that the suspect was a former student who attended from 2013-2017 and was on the school’s track team.

According to Daily News-Record’s report:

“Geller declined to say if Campbell was a student and also could not provide any information about whether Campbell was under the influence of drugs or alcohol during the incident.

“Based on available evidence, the shooting was isolated and Campbell is the lone suspect.

“Campbell was previously a member of the school’s track team, according to witnesses at the scene.

“According to an online bio on the Eagles athletic website, which was taken down late Tuesday, Campbell last ran for BC in 2015, placing 13th at the Old Dominion Athletic Conference meet, and was a graduate of Patrick Henry High School.

“Geller also said she could not provide any information about a criminal history of Campbell.

“Multiple firearms were recovered as evidence both on and off campus Tuesday, according to Geller.”

Initially, there was a report of an active shooter on the campus of Bridgewater College.

The college had been named “Safest College in Virginia” last fall by the consumer information site SafeAtLast.

Radio transmissions between fire and EMS responders revealed two officers had been shot, News Leader reported:

“From Fire and EMS radio chatter, it was reported that two officers were hit and the suspect was in the area of East Main Street. That report came in 1:46 p.m.

“The report came through’s Service Incident Page Network that sends out alerts to subscribers. 

“That same reporting network said the male in custody had been shot once.”

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There were about 30 police officers from different departments and agencies that arrived on the campus to search for the suspect.

Students and staff were told to shelter in place by college officials who posted alerts on social media.

On Twitter, the following alerts were tweeted by the college, beginning at 1:24 p.m. and ending 4:33 p.m.:

“Reports of active shooter on campus. Shelter in place.

“This is not a test. More info to follow. 

“Continue to shelter in place. State Police on the scene.

“Continue to shelter in place. We will share more information when it’s made available to us.

“Situation is ongoing. We are communicating with authorities. Will update. Text to let your loved ones know you are okay.

“An individual is in police custody. Situation is still ongoing. Continue to shelter where you are.

“Continue to shelter in place. Still in effect.

“For additional safety purposes, law enforcement officials will be moving through  buildings. Do not be alarmed. listen to officers’ instructions.

“Remain patient & in place as police work through their processes. Use these alerts as the only reliable source of information.

“The College and State Police will be issuing a statement, Continue to shelter in place. More information to come.

“This is still an active case. Please continue to shelter where you are.

“Around 1:20 p.m. Feb. 1 Bridgewater College Police, Town of Bridgewater Police, @VSPPIO, Rockingham County Sheriff’s Office, @HarrisonburgPD, Augusta Sheriff’s Office, Town of Dayton Police, FBI & @VirginiaDWR responded to a report of an active shooter on BC’s campus.

“Initial reports came in that 2 officers had been shot & the armed suspect had fled. State & local law enforcement immediately responded and initiated a massive search operation for the suspect. By 1:55 p.m. the male shooter was taken into custody. Investigation ongoing.

“This is an all clear notification. More information will come via campus email.”

After the tragedy, Bridgewater College President David Bushman later released a statement:

“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.

“Campus Police Officer John Painter and Campus Safety Officer J.J. Jefferson were shot and killed on campus while protecting us.

“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.

“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.

“We will be sharing more information very soon on grief counseling and other forms of support.

“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.”

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