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‘Dynamic duo’: Remembering slain Bridgewater College officers John Painter and JJ Jefferson

john painter jj jefferson
John Painter (left) and JJ Jefferson. Photo courtesy Bridgewater College.

Just days after the tragedy that rocked the Shenandoah Valley, life is not the same in the Town of Bridgewater.

On Tuesday, two beloved officers on the campus of Bridgewater College were tragically shot and killed while protecting those they pledged to serve. Campus police officer John Painter and campus safety officer J.J. Jefferson were killed in the line of duty after confronting a crazed gunman on campus.

Alexander Wyatt Campbell, 27, allegedly shot the officers and ran before being captured by a combination of local authorities. The shooting remains under investigation, and Campbell, a former student at Bridgewater, has been arrested and charged on multiple accounts.

As this small liberal arts college aims to impossibly get back to some form of normalcy, hearts are heavy as they remember and pay their respects to two guys who together were known as the “dynamic duo.”

Here’s what we know about each:

John Painter

Painter, 55, was the former police chief of nearby Grottoes, serving there for 18 years. He’s remembered as a lover of music, a family man and a dedicated outdoorsman.

“Chief Painter leaves a legacy of true diligence, heart, honor and leadership within our community,” Grottoes Mayor Jo Plaster said in a statement. “Chief Painter was gentle, a kind spirit and it has been a true privilege knowing him and having him serve Our Town.”

JJ Jefferson

He had just turned 48 on Sunday, two days before the tragedy. He also was recently married, and Painter was his best man at the ceremony. He’s remembered as a loving, generous person who would go out of his way to help others.

His mother, Willie B. Jefferson, told The Washington Post that he was a hard worker and loved his new wife and family. From 2012 to 2018, Jefferson worked at Shenandoah University and was given the Wilkins Award in 2017 for his initiatives to re-envision campus safety.

Story by Roger Gonzalez

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