ROCKINGHAM COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) – Virginia State Police is continuing to investigate Tuesday’s fatal shooting of two Bridgewater College officers.
The victims are 55-year-old, Bridgewater College police officer John E. Painter, and 48-year-old Bridgewater College campus safety officer Vashon “JJ” A. Jefferson.
The scene unfolded Tuesday afternoon after a call came in for a suspicious adult male on campus. Virginia State Police said after a brief interaction the suspect opened fire, shooting both officers.
“You never think that something like this is ever going to happen,” said Sean Biser, Jefferson’s close family friend.
“His nature. His big smile. His personality. There’s no doubt in my mind he impacted people’s lives with his compassion,” Biser said.
Virginia State Police said after the interaction, the suspect ran off. A man fitting the shooter’s description was located in the town of Bridgewater on Riverside Drive.
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The suspect had waded through the water and onto an island in the North River. Harrisonburg Police, Rockingham County Sheriff’s Deputies and Virginia State Police were able to take him into custody without incident.
27-year-old Alexander W. Campbell, the shooting suspect and former student at the college, appeared in court for the first time Wednesday afternoon. He was granted a court appointed lawyer, who requested a mental health evaluation before his next court appearance.
Campbell now faces five charges, including two counts of capital murder, one count of first degree murder, one count of use of a firearm in the commission of a felony and aggravated murder for multiple persons in three years.
A memorial will take place outside Memorial Hall on Bridgewater’s campus Wednesday night, as a place loved ones can gather and reflect.
“The career he went into was a life of service,” Biser explained. “I think that would be a huge way to remember him. He put others before himself. When he met you, he made you feel loved and part of his family.”
Campbell’s next court appearance is February 16.