2 officers killed during shooting at Bridgewater College campus, suspect in custody

The officers were responding to reports of a "suspicious" person on campus.

February 01, 2022, 9:55 PM

A campus police officer and a campus safety officer were killed during a shooting at a Virginia college Tuesday afternoon after responding to reports of a "suspicious" person on campus, officials said.

Multiple agencies responded to Bridgewater College in Bridgewater following a report of an active shooter around 1:20 p.m. local time, school officials said.

The two officers were responding to a call of a "suspicious male individual" on the grounds of the college's Memorial Hall, according to Virginia State Police spokesperson Corinne Geller. After a brief interaction, the suspect opened fire, striking both officers, she said.

The suspect fled on foot and was apprehended about a half-hour later off-campus, officials said. Officers followed the suspect after he waded into the North River, onto an island in the river, and he was taken into custody without incident, Geller said.

PHOTO: A suspect is taken into custody by law enforcement following an active shooter alert at Bridgewater College in Bridgewater, Va., Feb. 1, 2022.
A suspect is taken into custody by law enforcement following an active shooter alert at Bridgewater College in Bridgewater, Va., Feb. 1, 2022.
Daniel Lin / Daily News-Record

The two officers died from their injuries, Bridgewater spokesperson Logan Boger confirmed to ABC News. They were identified by the college's president as Campus Police Officer John Painter and Campus Safety Officer J.J. Jefferson.

"Today our campus community experienced unspeakable tragedy. Two members of the Bridgewater College family were senselessly and violently taken from us," Bridgewater College President David Bushman said in a statement.

"This is a sad and dark day for Bridgewater College. I know we all have so many questions and not many answers," he said.

PHOTO: This photo combo of images provided by Bridgewater College shows campus safety Officer J.J Jefferson, left, and campus police Officer John Painter. On Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022, a gunman shot and killed the two campus officers.
This photo combo of images provided by Bridgewater College shows campus safety Officer J.J Jefferson, left, and campus police Officer John Painter. On Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022, a gunman shot and killed the two campus officers.
Courtesy of Bridgewater College via AP

The officers were known as the "dynamic duo" and were close friends, Bushman said. Painter was Jefferson's best man in his wedding this year, he said.

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin ordered that flags in the state be flown at half-staff Wednesday "in respect and memory of the officers lost."

The suspect was identified by authorities as 27-year-old Alexander Wyatt Campbell, of Ashland, Virginia. He has been charged with four felonies: 2 counts of capital murder, 1 count of first-degree murder and 1 count of use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, according to Geller, and is being held without bond at the Rockingham County Jail.

Campbell was treated for a non-life-threatening gunshot wound, according to Geller. It is unclear if he was shot by Painter, who was the only one of the two officers armed, or if it was self-inflicted, she said.

Multiple firearms "associated with Campbell" were recovered on and off-campus and seized as evidence, Geller said.

PHOTO: Alexander Wyatt Campbell, 27, has been identified by police as the suspect in the fatal shooting of two police officers on the campus of Bridgewater
Alexander Wyatt Campbell, 27, has been identified by police as the suspect in the fatal shooting of two police officers on the campus of Bridgewater
Virginia State Police

Virginia State Police did not comment on Campbell's relationship to the college, but Geller said several college employees called 911 after seeing the suspect in and around Memorial Hall. "He was not supposed to be in this particular location," she said.

A motive is still under investigation, and Campbell is the lone suspect, police said. It is unclear if he has an attorney.

Bridgewater Mayor Ted Flory said the community is "shocked by today's senseless violence."

"We are heartbroken by the needless injuries and loss of life. And we are rightly angered at the evil which alighted upon us," he said in a statement. "But even in our grief, we turn our heads and we see the goodness of humanity: police officers running toward the danger, rescue personnel rushing in, and neighbors keeping each other safe."

President Joe Biden also reacted to the incident on Twitter Tuesday night, saying, "Another senseless shooting has taken the lives of two brave officers."

"Jill and I are praying for the families of those lost. Gun violence against law enforcement officers is sickening, and it must end," he added.

Biden plans to travel to New York City on Thursday to discuss gun violence with Mayor Eric Adams, after two NYPD officers were killed in the line of duty last month.

PHOTO: In this screen grab from Google Maps Street View, the campus of Bridgewater College is shown in Bridgewater, Va.
In this screen grab from Google Maps Street View, the campus of Bridgewater College is shown in Bridgewater, Va.
Google Maps Street View

Agencies including the Virginia State Police, the Rockingham County Sheriff's Office and the Harrisonburg Police Department responded to the college following reports of an active shooter. The FBI was also sending agents to the scene, according to a spokesperson.

By 4:33 p.m., the university gave an "all clear" message on its website.

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