J.J. Jefferson: Tribute to the Bridgewater College Officer

J.J. Jefferson

Police/Bridgewater College Officer JJ Jefferson

J.J. Jefferson was one of the two Bridgewater College law enforcement officers who were shot and killed during an active shooter incident on the college’s campus in Virginia.

Jefferson and Officer John Painter, who also died, were remembered as heroes who were beloved figures on campus.

The suspect is now in custody, the College wrote. Both a campus law enforcement officer (Painter) and campus safety officer were both shot, according to Virginia State police.

Bridgewater College’s president wrote in a statement posted to the college’s Facebook page that the two officers had died. The suspect was named as former student and track standout Alexander Wyatt Campbell.

Read Heavy’s tribute to Officer Painter here.

john painter

PoliceJohn Painter

Here’s what you need to know:


1. Painter & Jefferson Were Known as the ‘Dynamic Duo’ & Painter Was the Best Man at Jefferson’s Wedding

The statement posted by Bridgewater College President David Bushman said the two officers were very close friends:

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.

The active shooter reports were first communicated to students and faculty via an emergency alert on February 1, 2022.

“Reports of active shooter on campus. Shelter in place,” Bridgewater College tweeted in one of its first alerts.

Bridgewater College later gave additional details:

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.

The college gave an “all clear.”


2. Jefferson & Painter Were Remembered as ‘Two Amazing Men’ Who ‘Saved Countless Lives’

Bridgewater Rescue Squad was among those offering tribute to Jefferson and Painter. A Facebook post read:

First and foremost, thank you to everyone who answered the bell today and protected and served our citizens, residents, and students of Bridgewater.

Unfortunately today… not only the college and the town… but this wonderful world lost two AMAZING men. These men saved countless lives today by being the brave men they are. Men and woman like this are often overlooked in today’s society and under-appreciated until it’s too late, like now. Words cannot begin to describe how lucky, proud, and honored we are to have worked hand and hand with these men.
It’s never too late to appreciate these men and woman protecting us day in and day out. Hug someone, hug them tight. You never know when your last moments with them might be. Rest In Peace Officer John Painter and Officer JJ Jefferson.

The reports of the active shooter came on the afternoon of February 1, 2022. The motive is not yet clear.

“I have been briefed on the situation at Bridgewater College. The shooter is in custody and state and local police are on the scene. I will continue to monitor the situation in conjunction with law enforcement,” Governor Glenn Youngkin tweeted.

“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,” the college’s president said in the email to students, according to NBC12.


3. The College President Described It as a ‘Sad & Dark Day’

The college president’s statement continued:

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.

The college followed that up with a tweet that reported that a suspect was in custody, writing, “An individual is in police custody. Situation is still ongoing. Continue to shelter where you are.”

The college’s website was down but then went back up. It also contained the series of emergency alerts. The first report of an active shooter on campus came just after 1:24. Just after a minute later, the college posted this message: “This is not a test. More info to follow.” The website touts Bridgewater as the “safest college” in Virginia.


4. A U.S. Senator Expressed Prayers for ‘All Involved’

Mark Warner, U.S. senator from Virginia, tweeted, “Continuing to closely monitor the situation at Bridgewater College and am grateful for the efforts of first responders already on the scene. Praying for all involved.”

Harrisonburg, Virginia’s Twitter page tweeted, “The Harrisonburg Police Department is currently assisting with an active law enforcement scene in the town of Bridgewater. Please do not travel to Bridgewater at this time until the situation comes to a close. To any of our followers in Bridgewater, please shelter in place.” The page also confirmed that a suspect was in custody.


5. The College Urged People to Text Their Loved Ones

Before the suspect was in custody, the college wrote, “Situation is ongoing. We are communicating with authorities. Will update. Text to let your loved ones know you are okay.”

People wrote on the College’s tweet. “My kid is there, was at the office where incident happened. He said 1 person w gun who ran. Another person believe to be a bystander was tackled by police. Info is sketchy -still locked down,” a person wrote. That information was not verified by authorities.

“Hello my Son texted me about a active shooter on the campus of Bridgewater College in Bridgewater Va.,” a woman tweeted at a news outlet. There were conflicting reports on social media about whether there was only one shooter, but authorities have not clarified. It is common in fast-breaking active shooter incidents for early information to conflict or even be wrong.

A woman tweeted, “I’ve spent the last hour messaging with dear friends & former colleagues at Bridgewater College (my first job), who have been sheltering in place due to an active shooter on campus. I don’t even have the words anymore to say how much this isn’t normal. Except that here, it is.”

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