Two officers were shot and killed at Bridgewater College in Virginia on Tuesday after the university reported an “active shooter” on campus, college officials said.
Campus police officer John Painter and campus safety officer JJ Jefferson were shot at around 1:20 p.m. after they responded to a call of a suspicious individual who was in an area of the small private liberal-arts college where he was not authorized to be, state police said.
Alexander Wyatt Campbell, 27 from Ashland, Va, opened fire on the officers after a brief interaction, and fled on foot into the town of Bridewater, about 140 miles southwest of Washington, DC, Virginia State Police Public Relations Manager Corinne Geller said at a Tuesday evening press conference.
Campbell then waded into a shallow section of the North River and walked to an island, where he was apprehended by officers from multiple agencies 35 minutes later, according to authorities.
An image taken by the local Daily News-Record showed 10 officers pointing their guns at the shirtless suspect face-down on the ground. The arresting officers had waded into the river after Campbell and took him into custody without incident, police said.
The suspect was treated and released for a gunshot wound in an undisclosed area. Police were looking into if the shot was fired by Painter, who carried a gun, or if it was self-inflicted, Geller said.
Campbell was charged with four felonies, including two counts of capital murder and was being held without bail, police said. Investigators did not reveal if he was a student at the college, and his motive was unclear.
Bridgewater College President David Bushman said Painter and Jefferson were close friends, known to many on campus as a “dynamic duo.” Jefferson was even Painter’s best man in his wedding this year, he said.
“It is heartbreaking. It’s taking us all back. Right now we’re caught up in the moment making sure we take care of each other and especially take care of our students, our campus police and safety officers and the families involved in this,” Bushman said at the press conference. “We will take care of each other and that’s how we will get through this together.”
Alex Hulleman, a student who was on campus during the shooting, told the local newspaper he heard numerous shots ring out before the officers were killed.
“We looked out the window and we saw that two officers were down, and eventually they covered their bodies with sheets ,” said Hulleman, 21.
The student said he was in a classroom with about 20 other students when they heard “a bunch of shots” and immediately hit the floor.
“We heard some moaning, we heard some people talking, a couple of people barricaded the door, we stayed there for a while,” he said.
Bridgewater College told students to “shelter in place” around 1:25 p.m. and wrote on Twitter, “This is not a test.”
About 40 minutes after the incident was reported on the college’s Twitter account, the school notified students that an individual had been taken into custody.
“For additional safety purposes, law enforcement officials will be moving through buildings. Do not be alarmed. listen to officers’ instructions,” the school wrote about 20 minutes later.
Around 4:30 p.m., the school notified students that the shelter in place order had been lifted and there was no longer a threat.
Classes were canceled on Wednesday as the investigation continued, Bushman said.