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Suspect ID’d in Bridgewater College shootings that killed two police officers

Alexander Wyatt Campbell
Alexander Wyatt Campbell. Photo courtesy Rockingham County Jail.

A former Bridgewater College student is in custody in the shooting deaths of a Bridgewater College police officer and campus safety officer on Tuesday.

Alexander Wyatt Campbell, 27, was once a standout on the college’s cross country and track and field team, earning second-team All-ODAC cross country team honors in 2015, after being a two-time all-district runner at Patrick Henry High School in Ashland, from which he had graduated in 2013.

He now faces capital murder charges in the shooting deaths of John Painter, a campus police officer, and J.J. Jefferson, a campus safety officer.

The incident that led to the shootings began at approximately 1:20 p.m. Tuesday when Painter and Jefferson responded to call for a suspicious adult male being located on the grounds of Memorial Hall.

After a brief interaction with the man, Campbell opened fire and shot both officers before fleeing the scene on foot.

The Bridgewater College Police Department, Town of Bridgewater Police Department, Virginia State Police, Rockingham County Sheriff’s Office, City of Harrisonburg Police, Augusta County Sheriff’s Office, Town of Dayton Police Department and the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources Conservation Police immediately responded to the scene.

Search efforts were immediately underway across the campus. A man fitting the shooter’s description was located on Riverside Drive in the Town of Bridgewater. He then waded through the river and onto an island in the North River, which is located in the Town of Bridgewater.

Harrisonburg Police, Rockingham County Sheriff’s Deputies and Virginia State Police Special Agents took Campbell into custody without further incident.

Campbell was suffering from a non-life threatening gunshot wound, and was transported to Rockingham Memorial Hospital, where he was treated and released.

Virginia State police are working to determine if he was shot by Painter or suffered a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Multiple firearms associated with Campbell, whose last known address was Ashland, Va., have been recovered as evidence.

State Police are requesting anyone with video/images or information related to this shooting to please share with investigators at [email protected].

The FBI and ATF are assisting with the ongoing criminal investigation.

Meanwhile, the Bridgewater College community mourns.

“Today our campus community experienced unspeakable tragedy. Two members of the Bridgewater College family were senselessly and violently taken from us,” College President David Bushman said in a note to the BC community posted to social media. “The sadness is palpable. Words are not adequate, not nearly so, to express the grief, sadness, fear and—justifiably—the anger we all feel.”

Bushman, in the note, described Painter and Jefferson as close friends, “known to many of us as the ‘dynamic duo.’”

“John was J.J.’s best man in his wedding this year,” Bushman said. “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,” Bushman said. “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.”

Story by Chris Graham


augusta free press
augusta free press
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